Over 200 Phoenix Professionals Get Deaf-Friendly Training

Posted by: Staff Writer on July 1, 2016

After attending a two-hour Deaf-Friendly Customer Service training on Wednesday, Kevin Mattingly wasted no time taking action: He personally turned on the captions on each television set in the Phoenix Convention Center. And decided to leave them on, forever.

The deputy convention center director was one of over 200 professionals in Phoenix, AZ to attend the training. Four participating local businesses had a shared mission: To prepare to welcome up to 2,000 attendees of the 53rd Biennial National Association of the Deaf Conference.

“You know, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is a big term and we don’t always appreciate the broad spectrum of the population covered by the Act,” said Mattingly. “(The training) brought us into focus on the Deaf community and we got a few ideas on how to do more for our guests.”

The National Association of the Deaf enlisted deaffriendly and the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) to prepare businesses through sensitivity training, cultural awareness, tips, and hospitality-specific sign language vocabulary.

The conference, which runs from July 5 – 9, won’t be the Phoenix Convention Center’s first experience with deaf guests: It played host to Deaf Nation Expo from 2007 to 2013, as well as the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Deaf Research Foundation.

Nevertheless, the workshop – led by deaffriendly CEO and founder Melissa “echo” Greenlee and community outreach manager Socorro Moore – gave the convention center’s 69 workshop participants many new ideas. To better serve DeafBlind attendees, they are aiming to use yellow and orange-colored paper with black Sharpies, Mattingly said, adding: “I believe this is the first time we’ve introduced sign language to our employees.”

Fittingly, the convention center’s Ambassadors already wear bright orange shirts and are now trained and ready to help Deaf attendees who are seeking food, beverages, and navigation help.

Two local Phoenix hotels also attended the workshop: Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, which expects to house about 300 NAD attendees, and Hyatt Regency, which is expecting over 200 NAD guests.

Fifty Renaissance Ambassadors (who work in the front line to greet guests) joined the training - from front office, sales, food & beverage outlets, engineering, and loss prevention.

“We enjoyed learning some sign language and will practice so that we can sign what we learned next week to our NAD guests,” said Alicia Lubert, a senior event manager for Renaissance Hotels. She also learned other communication tips, such as “looking directly at the person you are speaking to and not the interpreter (if there is one).”

Her favorite ASL signs included AWESOME, THANK YOU, and Deaf applause. 

Putting Phoenix on the deaf-friendly map

The customer training program, which launched last month, has traveled outside of deaffriendly’s flagship city of Seattle once already: Vicki Moseley, our newest deaf-friendly trainer teamed up with Socorro Moore for a training in Portland, OR last month.

Now, Greenlee says, “we want to put Phoenix on the deaf-friendly map.”

“We’re excited to be here to partner with NAD to give businesses the tools they need to become deaf-friendly,” said Greenlee. “Their commitment to providing a deaf-friendly environment for conference attendees is what prompted them to reach out to us.” Greenlee and Moore’s training included Deaf awareness tips specific to each hospitality function. The banquet room, for example, is to label all food and drinks with name tags. Also, servers are urged to maneuver around those who are signing in conversation while not blocking the speaker.

At the end of each training session, participants wrote down deaf-friendly actions they would commit to. Bartenders, for example, committed to signing work-specific words like WINE, BEER, WATER, and MARGARITA. Maintenance committed to making sure the close captioning is turned on in hotel lobby’s, bars and restaurants. Housekeeping committed to being mindful of how to enter a Deaf guests room. One business is already armed with dry-erase boards for their staff to carry.

Not planning on using the ancient dinosaur that is the TDD/TTY? Great news! Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel and Hyatt Regency have committed to using an in-room communication solution: Text messaging! Deaf guests will be able to text the hotel front desk using their personal device with any of their needs 24 hours a day.

Also, Hyatt Regency committed to supplying extra door knockers, having ADA kits ready, and learning more ASL. Bonus: Of the three businesses that attended the training, Greenlee added, “Hyatt appeared to have the most fluent signers.”

There is nothing worse than checking into a hotel, going up to your room, only to feel stuck without any way to communicate with the front desk. Just like any other hotel guest, I want to take advantage of room service, extra linen and towels and concierge services, but can’t. Providing an in-room communication solution such as text messaging breaks down a huge communication barrier for the Deaf guest. We are so excited to see Deaf guests get to enjoy hotel amenities fully, maybe for the first time in their life!” Greenlee said. “As Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing attendees arrive next week, I look forward to seeing how each venue implements our tips and tricks. I foresee a huge impact on how the hospitality industry changes their services to become more accessible to our Deaf community, not just during NAD but for their ongoing best practices.”

Next week, NAD’s conference attendees have access to over 100 workshops on topics such as federal relay service training, protactile: the DeafBlind way, digital documentation of sign language, Deaf advocates and Deaf interpreters in courtrooms and LEAD-K: getting kids kindergarten ready. While deaffriendly will not be offering a workshop this year, Greenlee hopes to someday pitch a workshop about self-advocacy and how providing feedback on social platforms is a powerful catalyst for change. 

“(deaffriendly) is working closely with the NAD Conference committee to develop this relationship and have it translate into tangible, real-world results: Improved deaf-friendly customer service for Deaf conference attendees,” explained Crystal Green, deaffriendly’s editor. “We want organizations like NAD to think of us and use our resources to go in early, get boots on the ground, and train hearing businesses before the influx of Deaf consumers.”  

NAD attendees, are you staying at a hotel that has been freshly trained on how to provide deaf-friendly customer service? We’d love to see examples of deaf-friendly action they took: Please plug in a review for  Hyatt Regency Phoenix or Renaissance Downtown Phoenix! Also, don’t forget to plug in a review for the Phoenix Convention Center. Same for the many bars, restaurants, and nearby businesses you may encounter along the way.

If you’re looking to find out where the deaf-friendly businesses are, check out our tab in the Guidebook app provided by NAD where you can find all of the reviewed business across Phoenix!

The deaffriendly team would also like to give kudos to Access Professional Interpreting for providing high-caliber, certified sign language interpreters for two days of back-to-back training sessions.

“They say that repetition is the key to learning. Next week, with up to 2,000 Deaf, DeafBlind and hard of hearing attendees in downtown Phoenix, businesses will have a unique opportunity of receiving continuous and hands-on practice that will give them the skills to serve Deaf customers better for many years to come.” promises Greenlee.

#JoinTheMovement for a #deaffriendlyPhoenix by writing a review!




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