#deaffriendly Apps: Where Necessity and Innovation Mash Up

Posted by: Staff Writer on April 1, 2015

Deaf technology users are hip to what is the latest and greatest, always on the lookout for #deaffriendly technology. And when it comes to phone apps, you can bet most of Deaf folks have an assortment of awesome technology at their fingertips. They’re the trend setters and technology curators of the world and you can bet they are dialed in. 

Hearing folks sometimes labor under the misconception that Deaf people use and view technology purely for assistance in hearing and sound notifcations – something to improve aspects of our lives for listening, when in fact technology is a lifestyle in itself. Deaf technology users are sophisticated and savvy, with ability to leverage a level playing field.  Folks, it’s a deaf world out there and our phones are our passports.

Here are some of our favorite #deaffriendly lifestyle apps currently at our fingertips:

Noshing and Nom’ing

The food and restaurant industry has become increasingly #deaffriendly with their apps. Intentionally or not, apps like the ones below go a long ways towards making our day to day lives a #deaffriendly one.

The Starbucks app newest feature is a game changer. Part of its rewards program, you could always register a gift card and start earning rewards with every purchase on the Starbucks app. You could also pay in store using your card. However, the newest feature takes things up a notch and allows you to order and pay in advance before you even walk through the door.  (Please note this feature is now in beta stage with a limited test release in just a couple cities, including Seattle. But fear not, it will eventually be launched nationwide.) How it works: You pick your customizable beverage and food item from the menu, the app will then locate the store nearest to you using the GPS locator on your phone, and once you confirm your order you pay using the loaded card already stored. Finally, the order is sent to the Starbucks location where it is received and your order is made. Orders are usually available to pick up within two to eight minutes, giving you just enough time to drive, park, and walk in. All you have to do is walk up to the usual pick-up station and grab your order, bypassing the folks in line who are ordering and paying at the cashier. Sweet. Not only do you save time, you save considerable hassle since you don’t have to communicate with #deafchallenged workers, and you can be assured you get exactly what you want, when you want, and quickly. Now that’s revolutionary when our needs and the latest innovation are beautifully paired together into one nifty app.

Open Table is a #deaffriendly app that allows you to create reservations for restaurants at the click of a button, skipping the need to use the relay to place a call. Restaurants themselves are becoming more accessible too through their apps that customers download on their phones. For example, Domino’s Pizza is one of many restaurants that empower customers to order and pay through their app and receive notifications about delivery arrival times. Eat24 is yet another app that allows you to browse the menu of various restaurants in the area, select the items you want, choose to have it delivered or picked-up, pay through your stored credit card and voila! Food for your belly in less than an hour. There is a growing demand for these kind of service; Deaf consumers all over the nation are recognizing the value of a more #deaffriendly dining experience and are shifting their technology habits and spending dollars towards those businesses that cater to them better.

Jet Setting

Our Deaf World is indeed very small, easily-traveled, and chock full of Deaf communication experts. The result? Deaf folks are well known for being seasoned world travelers. The gift of sign language allows Deaf people from different parts of the world to connect, even if their signed languages are different. This natural, instinctive ability to use gestures and facial expressions also allows Deaf travelers to communicate with hearing people from different countries, making us natural world ambassadors. Experienced Deaf travelers know to make good use of #deaffrinedly travel-related apps to create a richer and smoother travel experience. 

Both Uber and Lyft create a twist on the traditional taxi business model- they use drivers of privately owned vehicles to become on-call taxi drivers. What makes both companies stand-out is their #deaffriendly apps that allow you to order a car, give both your pick up and drop off locations, identify the driver and car through a photo, track where the car is on the map in real-time, and if that wasn’t enough- pay for your ride through your mobile phone… all without having to communicate directly with the driver or use the relay. Now we’re really starting to go places.

Several airlines offer check-ins, boarding passes, and flight trackers on their apps – keeping travelers in the loop and minimizing #deafchallenged communication experiences. Savvy Deaf travelers take advantage of such apps to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of their traveling experiences.

Several large cities and metro public transportation departments offer apps that will track buses and subways, and trains in real-time, saving you the hassle of wondering if you’ve missed your bus/subway/train or if it’s running five minutes late. Most of these transportation apps also allow riders to plan routes, calculate walking times, and take into account current traffic conditions. No more trying to communicate with signing-impaired or #deafchallenged drivers and transportation workers. When even government departments are starting to create more accessible, effective, and efficient ways to harness technology, you know things are really beginning to change.

Old Schoolin’ It

Sometimes the simplest apps are the most effective.  Deaf people will find both creative and straightforward ways to leverage apps on their phone in ways they weren’t necessarily developed to be used. Yet, when we use technology sometimes the simplest change leverages unexpected impact.

Many a time you will see a Deaf person in line, typing away on their phone. For good reason. We’re not zoning out or whiling away the minutes until it’s our turn… we’re typing out our tall flat white espresso order, or our everything but the mushrooms pizza order in Notepad. We’ll use our notepad app to communicate with waiters, servers, baristas, bartenders, and all the myriad service providers in lieu of pen and paper. We’ll save a tree and whip out our phones instead. #deaffriendly, innovation, and tree-huggin’ in the same sentence? You betchya.

How many times have you heard a Deaf person lament they overflowed the bathtub? Again?  Yeah.  That was then. This is now. Now we have an app for that…For when we need to check the stove. For when we need to switch the laundry. For when we need to hit the road… We utilize the Reminder app on our phone for everything and it keeps our lives running on track, and our wood floors nice and dry.

Can’t see? There’s an app for that too. The Flashlight app is genius in its simplicity and simple in its impact. Deaf folks like light. We gravitate towards it like, well… moths to a flame. The flashlight app comes in handy often, when looking for keys in our bags, finding our way in the dark, conversing with our friends at night or in low light situations, or even when the accommodations department forgets to put a spotlight on our interpreters during a performance.

However Deaf people use apps on their phones, you can be assured that with each new app that comes on the market, we’ll be the ones in the driver’s seat, taking it for a test drive- and those that pass the #deaffriendly test are in for the long haul. Because when sweet innovation and #deaffriendly necessity meet, it’s a beautiful thing.

Got a favorite #deaffriendly app that we failed to mention? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.

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