Reviewer Spotlight: Alicia - Frederick, MD
Posted by: Staff Writer on March 13, 2018
Do you know the stories behind the reviewers of deaffriendly.com? Each quarter, we pick the brains of our most active reviewers. They are the words behind our deaf-friendly mission, the stars of our 1-5 star ratings, and the soul of this website.
Meet Alicia Mullins, from Frederick, MD who has racked up a whopping 42 reviews in nine months. Her first review, a five-star nod to dentist Harvey Levy, details the ease of making videophone appointments, captioned television, and signing dentists and hygienists. Since last May, she’s plugged reviews into her iPad -- usually on the fly while frequenting businesses along the East Coast.
She quickly earned our “Advocate” badge, opening our eyes to the nuances of being not just deaf-friendly, but disability-friendly.
“I have always been an advocate of those who have a disability and I was inspired to post my review on deaffriendly.com to encourage others to do the same,” said Mullins.
From the visual doorbells at Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham, to ASL-interpreted music performances at the Frederick Fairgrounds, Mullins’ keen eye picks up useful details and tips. Fun metrics: Two-thirds of her mouthwatering reviews are about food establishments, and she’s assigned 4 or 5 stars to 70% of all her reviews.
On wheelchairs, and the gamut of Deaf+ and the disability issues
While primarily about businesses’ deaf-friendly characteristics, Mullins’ reviews reflect a broader awareness of serving all types of differently-abled patrons.
Case in point: There are frequent mentions of wheelchair access. On a recent visit to Pittsburgh, she noticed the stairs at Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream create mobility challenges, but PNC Park’s ramps and elevators are an mobile accessibility win.
“I want others who are disabled to have the right to enjoy what the community has to offer,” said Mullins, who identifies as hard of hearing and notes that the Maryland School for the Deaf has made her hometown a very deaf-friendly community.
On building advocacy muscle as a federal employee
Self-advocacy is like a muscle. Anyone can gain it, but it needs to be exercised. For Mullins, 15+ years working in the federal sector made her a natural advocate to many.
Confidence that she could create change came from “seeing how I was able to make a positive change in getting sign language interpreters, disability awareness training, and captioned phones and videophones installed” at work, Mullins shared.
An IT/IM specialist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) headquarters, her job is a whirlwind of agency-wide IT processes, records systems, information management, and infrastructure operations.
Along the way, she found a role in advocacy leadership.
At NRC, she founded the Advisory Committee for Employees with Disabilities, one of the agency’s eight Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Committees.
“Since my arrival at the NRC in October 2001, great strides have been made in providing reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities,” said in the recent Winter 2017-2018 issue of the CAREERS & the DisABLED magazine.
On translating workplace advocacy to the business world
Armed with this experience, Mullins’ latest endeavor is to facilitate the relationships between businesses and their customer base. She is currently establishing herself as an independent disability consultant to help businesses become aware of the positive benefits to being disability-friendly.
(A perfect calling for a deaffriendly reviewer, we'd say!)
On getting started as a #deaffriendly reviewer
Communicate through feelings and keep the feedback both positive and constructive, advices Mullins: “If a business is not deaf-friendly and needs to be improved, then give a few examples of what could be done.”
That could mean suggesting better lighting, providing a dry erase board to communicate, or referring the business to deaffriendly.com, she said.
Not only does this approach work, it has at times resulted in free meals as well as positive emails directly from management: “Often the changes to a business begins with the management or business owner. It's important for everyone to speak up and say something in order for changes to occur.”
Join the movement. Write reviews!
Curious about what makes other deaffriendly badge reviewers tick? Check out other spotlight pieces on those who’ve earned “Champion” badges: a deaf-friendly interior design entrepreneur, Uber driver, and an advocacy/case management director at a Seattle non-profit. Word by word, they’ve all done their part to make their community a more deaf-friendly one.