Uber will teach you sign language to better communicate with deaf drivers

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Uber launched a new tool yesterday to teach users how to sign simple phrases in American Sign Language for better communication with drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing. The website, ubersignlanguage.com, is an extension of an outreach effort launched by the company in 2015 to recruit more drivers from the deaf community.

Now when you get matched with a deaf driver, you are offered the option of learning a few ASL signs in the app. The tool teaches you how to sign basic phrases such as “hello,” “I am [your name],” and “thank you,” as well as navigational instructions like “turn left” and “turn right.”

Citing the fact that unemployment or underemployment in the deaf community is close to 70 percent, Uber says it is “proud to provide earning opportunities to Deaf and Hard of Hearing drivers across the world and in more than 200 US cities.”

Two years ago, Uber introduced a number of new features designed to better serve deaf drivers and their passengers. The app informs passengers when their driver is deaf, while also disabling voice-calling and instructing them to use text messaging for any questions. For deaf drivers, the app provides visual notifications rather than text messages when a new trip is requested.

Uber says it has “thousands” of deaf or hard of hearing drivers in the US, but wouldn’t provide a specific number. However, a spokesperson noted that collectively deaf drivers on the app have completed over a million trips.

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