Ordering Fast Food, Deaf Style

When a person who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing goes to a fast food restaurant, they face one of their greatest daily challenges. When restaurant employees don’t know sign language, the person with deafness or hearing loss has to find a way to communicate. Recent lawsuits include the denial of the right of people who use sign language to communicate the way they need with restaurants. Some fast food restaurant employees have taken the matter into their own hands–and learned to use them for American Sign Language with customers.

Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell drive thru with several cars in line.
Eating at Taco Bell has been a challenge and a blessing for the Deaf Community, depending on where you live. photo credit: Phillip Pessar KFC Taco Bell Combo Miami via photopin (license)

Opposing Views reports that Gina Cirrincione filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell when a drive-thru employee refused to accept a written order from her at the window.  According to the report, “The employee told her she needed to place her order at the start of the drive-thru and to come inside the restaurant next time.”

The lawsuit claims this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Picture of a McDonald's restaurant showing a drive thru
The McDonald’s drive thru offers convenience to most customers, unless you can’t hear. Then the experience changes. photo credit: dw_ross 20160703_091828 via photopin (license)

A 2016 similar situation occurred with a customer who was Deaf at McDonald’s. It resulted in employees calling the police when they didn’t understand why he was texting them his order, WOWT News reports.

In fact, the Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission sued McDonald’s in 2015 for not providing a sign language interpreter.

According to the agency’s press release, “When the Belton restaurant manager learned Washington [the applicant] needed a sign language interpreter for his job interview, she canceled the interview and never rescheduled it, despite Washington’s sister volunteering to act as the interpreter.”

The Deaf Community will definitely “Eat Mor Chikin” if they can order in sign language. photo credit: Southern Arkansas University Chick Fil A Grand Opening 10.30.12 via photopin (license)

Some restaurants have employees who know sign language. Two Chick-Fil-A customers were stunned when an employee at the cashier used sign language with them.

According to an ABC 7 report, “For the first time in her life, Cynthia Walker, a 20-year-old deaf woman, was able to order her meal at the restaurant on Raeford Road by signing.”

The customers were so pleased at the employee signing with them that they posted a video on Facebook, making the employee, Taylor Anez, a viral sensation.

Cleveland’s News 5 reports that a young man working for Taco Bell used sign language with a customer when they had difficulty ordering.

Caleb Francis said, “He wanted a side of salsa and sour cream but he didn’t know how to order a side of salsa and sour cream, and then we just kind of started communicating through that.”

Francis had studied sign language in high school.

Many fast food experiences for people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing are inside, because communication through a sound-only ordering device excludes them from participating.

Today News reports that a Florida Starbucks is giving an equal opportunity to access the drive thru, by providing video access and staff who know sign language.

Picture of a Starbuck's restaurant
When your Starbuck’s barista knows sign language and you can order by video in the drive thru, that’s accessibility!

Rebecca King, who was a regular Starbuck’s customer, was excited when one day, she was greeted by her barista in sign language at their drive-thru.

“It is a big deal to (the) deaf community that Starbucks has one now. Nowhere else has that!” King told NBC affiliate WTLV in Jacksonville. “We all want to have that at every drive-thru in the world.”

Providing accessible restaurant experiences benefits everyone.

Caleb Francis, the employee from Taco Bell, said he may have the greater reward.

“I think the biggest misconception about this is people say oh you probably made his day like so much easier and all that stuff…but what people don’t understand is it’s just exciting for me to get to sign to people as it is for anybody else…so when someone says oh I sign, it’s like Oh!, it’s just so exciting to me.”

Would you like to share the love and learn some sign language?

Try these online lessons that have videos with students.



Deaf Celebration in Houston on Tuesday

CGLogo_Confetti_ROUNDEDSign Shares, Inc./International and The Capsule Group will celebrate Deaf Awareness Month by holding an event in Houston.

The event will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27 at the Metropolitan Multi-Services Center, MMSC at 1475 West Gray St., in Houston.

Food and interpreters will be provided.

Black and white picture of hand breaking through paper, maybe an art canvas.
Feel like your hands are tied? Join us to help educate others about the Deaf/Hard of Hearing/Deafblind communities. photo credit: A criatura da mão via photopin (license)

Learn safety awareness, healthy advice and how you can be a part of our Focus Groups and advocate, educate, and legislate with The Capsule Group.

Contact Marco at VP 832.431.3854 if you have questions.


Coming Soon: FCC Session on Technology Transitions

The Federal Communication Commission’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau will host a session on Technology Transitions on Monday, Sept. 26 from 1:00 p.m.-2 p.m. Eastern Time, or from 12:00 p.m.-1:00 p.m., Central Time.

According to a press release from the agency, “The nation’s telephone companies in the United States are currently upgrading the technology that delivers phone service. Existing copper lines are being replaced with fiber or wireless networks that use Internet Protocol technology . . . This session will inform consumers about how the switch from copper networks to new technologies will affect them.”

Black and white picture from a scene with Dick Van Dyke's wife on the telephone.
You’re going to do what to my telephone service? photo credit: Mary Tyler Moore, The Dick Van Dyke Show, “Empress Carlotta’s Necklace,” 1961 via photopin (license)

This session would be a bigger concern for individuals with disabilities who use telephones as part of their assistive technology for daily living.

Click here to participate online. You can submit comments and questions by emailing livequestions@fcc.gov or via @FCC’s Twitter using the hashtag #FCClive.

The session will answer the following questions:

  • What are technology transitions?
  • What do technology transitions mean for me if I have a disability?
  • After a technology transition, how do I make sure that I can make an emergency call during a power outage?

    Man is dressed in jacket and cap, working with cell phone and laptop is plugged into a wall on the boardwalk in front of the ocean.
    With new telephone changes, make sure you know when your home provider may cause a power outage while updating your current telecommunications cables. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself unplugged. photo credit: Text you down via photopin (license)

For more information, click here, or contact Anthony Butler, Consumer Education and Outreach Specialist, at Anthony.Butler@fcc.gov.

One change that will occur because of the transitions will be power outages, according to the agency’s website. Consumers may need back up power because their home phone line may not work. “Traditional landline telephone service through copper wires typically continues to work during power outages, allowing you to call 911 in an emergency. However, newer alternatives – including fiber, coaxial cable, wireless – usually need backup power, such as a battery, to keep operating.”

If your landline phone provider is going to make changes that affect your home service, they should give you advanced notice at least 30 days in advance, according to the website.

If you will be in Washington, D.C. and wish to attend the session live, send an email to techtransitionsinfo@fcc.gov by Sept. 25 so agency staff can facilitate entry into the building. Bring a current, government-issued photo ID in order to access the building. Open captions will be provided, and requests for accommodations should be submitted via e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or by calling the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).






Texas Governor Proclaims Deaf Awareness Week

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation recognizing the week of September 18-24, 2016 as Deaf Awareness Week. The celebration is part of the month-long Deaf Awareness Month.

Governor Greg Abbott is speaking, the top rim of his wheelchair is visible.
Gov. Greg Abbott recognized this week as Deaf Awareness Week, kicking off social and awareness events this week. photo credit: Greg Abbott via photopin (license)

In a press release from the Office of the Governor, Abbott said, “Among those with disabilities,Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing have long been recognized for their contributions to our state. In fact, the 6th Texas Legislature helped to ensure the support of this community with the establishment of the Texas School for the Deaf in 1856.

Each September, organizations across Texas set out to raise awareness of this special population of citizens and promote available resources for the educational needs of Texans who are deaf or hard of hearing.

I encourage all Texans to support and celebrate the many unique and individual achievements of all citizens of our communities, and especially at this time, to honor Texans who are deaf and hard of hearing. I thank the many professionals and educators dedicated to assisting their fellow Texans and for their contributions focused on the best for all deaf and hard of hearing in Texas. Working together, we are ensuring a brighter future for our state.”

According to the press release, Texas School for the Deaf Superintendent Claire Bugen said,“We commend the Governor’s office in encouraging all Texans to gain a better understanding of the achievements of deaf people and their contributions to the world we live in. This annual event offers us the opportunity to increase public awareness of deaf issues, deaf people, and culture. Activities and events throughout Deaf Awareness Week encourage individuals to come together as a community for both educational events and celebrations.”

Upcoming Deaf Awareness events









Date Change: Houston Focus Group on Deaf Discrimination and Disability Rights

CapsuleLogoThe recent Deaf rally and protest at the Houston City Hall on Aug. 18 inspired Houston Deaf community members to continue working toward inclusion and access.

Under the sponsorship of The Capsule Group, the next focus group will meet in Houston.

UPDATE: The date has changed to Tuesday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m.- 1  p.m.

The meeting will be at the MMSC (Metropolitan Multi-Service Center) located at 1475 West Grey Street, Houston, TX. 77019.

Light refreshments will be provided.

At the meeting, prepare to discuss issues that people who are Deaf are facing. Have you experienced discrimination? Come and share your concerns.







UPDATED: Celebrating and Sharing Deaf Awareness Month with Celebrities and Events

September is Deaf Awareness Month, but it’s a reminder that we should make awareness about hearing loss and deafness year-long.

Sun shines brightly on a couple walking down the street holding hands.
September celebrates Deaf Awareness Month and the beginning of fall. photo credit: Into Autumn via photopin (license)

People who have deafness or hearing loss and work in the entertainment industry have advocated for more awareness about D/deaf issues.

“Seriously, I don’t find not being able to hear an obstacle or a boundary. For me and for many of us, it is an advantage and it’s a part of my identity in fact. It’s a huge part of who I am.”–Nyle DiMarco

“We really get to prove that the old saying is true — the only thing a deaf person can’t do is hear. I love that we show how diverse the deaf community is and how uniquely individual hearing loss is.”–Katie LeClerc

Marlee Matlin smiles and opens her arms wide.
Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin when she got her Hollywood Star.

“The opportunity to communicate in sign language, one of the most beautiful languages in the world, is an advantage that deaf people enjoy.  It’s a language that combines several elements at once with a simple hand movement and facial expression: meaning, affect, time and duration. It’s just so beautiful that printed or spoken words can’t begin to describe it.” —Marlee Matlin

Lou Ferrigno flexes his bicep for a fan.
Before he was TV’s The Incredible Hulk, Lou Ferrigno won Mr. Universe and Mr. America bodybuilding titles. photo credit: Ferrigno via photopin (license)

“If I hadn’t lost my hearing, I wouldn’t be where I am now. It forced me to maximize my own potential. I have to be better than the average person to succeed.” —Lou Ferrigno

To celebrate Deaf Awareness Month 2016, here is a list of upcoming 2016-17 events for people who are D/deaf, their friends and family members, or for professionals who provide services for them.

If we’ve left anything out, please let us know in the comments below and we can add it.

Deaf Events 2016

Houston Focus Group on Deaf Discrimination and Disability Rights
UPDATe: Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016
Houston, TX
Under the sponsorship of The Capsule Group, the focus group will meet at MMSC (Metropolitan Multi-Service Center) located at 1475 West Grey Street, Houston, TX 77019, from 10 a.m. -1 p.m.

Deaf Celebration EXPO 2016
Sept. 24, 2016
Fort Worth, TX
Sign Shares, Inc. is one the event’s 55 exhibitors.
Steve C. Baldwin, Deaf author, will be selling his murder mystery book there: “Backspace.”

Texas Association of the Deaf (TAD) Symposium
Oct. 1, 2016
New Braunfels, TX

The Houston Interpreters and Translators Association’s interpreter training: Consecutive Interpretation and Code of Ethics on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. The training will be provided during morning and evening hour sessions. It is approved for 8 hours of ATA; and is pending approval for: JBCC, ATA, CCHI and IMIA. The event includes 2 hours of ethics.
Houston, TX
The trainer will be Virginia Valencia, a federally-certified court interpreter.

International Language Services Conference
Oct. 12, 2016
Houston, TX
“The 5th annual International Language Services Conference will explore a 360° view of the interpreting encounter from start to finish, unifying all stakeholders in the process from the LEP patient to the hospital administrators, interpreter certifying organizations and educators, and  compliance officials.”

Association for Machine Translation in the Americas
Oct. 28-Nov. 1, 2016
Austin, TX

American Translators Conference
(“the voice of interpreters and translators”)
Nov. 2-5, 2016
San Francisco, CA

Deaf Events 2017

Texas Transition Conference
Feb. 22-24
Houston, TX

Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s (TSHA) Annual Convention and Exhibition
Feb. 23-25, 2017
Austin, TX

Deaf Seniors of America (DSA) Houston National Conference
Sunday, April 2-Sunday, April 9, 2017

Forging Pathways to Health Care and Biomedical Science Careers, Association of Medical Professionals with Hearing Loss
Rochester, NY
June 9-11, 2017
The event’s hosted by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology.










Deaf Student’s School Year Begins in the Toilet

An Omaha, Nebraska student with hearing loss reported that he was bullied by two students at school, resulting in damaged property. Other students publicly supported Hernandez.

Picture of a toilet in a bathroom
One place students don’t expect to find their homework: the bathroom toilet. Unfortunately, this is where other students threw the contents of his backpack. photo credit: Morning Light via photopin (license)

Alex Hernandez, a student at Burke High School, said that someone took his backpack during lunch at school, according to a report by KMTV.

His belongings were later found in a toilet, and the picture of it and a plea against bullying, possibly posted by his sister or someone close to him, went viral.

According to the KMTV report, his backpack contained “his tablet, school supplies, homework and debit card in a toilet. It also contained his cochlear implant – without it, he can’t hear.”

A later report appeared to clarify that the assistive technology involved was not the cochlear implant, but a battery for it, indicating the media’s difficulty in learning about technology used by people with hearing loss or deafness.

Hernandez made a stand against bullying: “Those students think it’s okay to bully a deaf student, but it’s not. It’s not okay to bully someone who is disabled, deaf or hard of hearing,” said Hernandez in the report. “Or anyone for that matter.”

According to a report from WGN, the two male students who took Hernandez’s backpack didn’t know him or that he was deaf.

Another student expressed his disapproval. “I actually saw it on Facebook, and it just absolutely sickened me,” said student Devon Fuller. “I can’t believe people at school would actually do that kind of thing,” according to the report.

Hernandez, according to a report from KMTV, is considering transferring to a school his friends tell him is more supporting of students who are hard of hearing.

The Deaf Community reached out to Hernandez. “They said they felt sorry for me and had me in their prayers. They said [they] were here supporting me and they know how it feels like to be deaf. So I’m very happy,” he said.

Despite community caring, Hernandez has “gone through years of bullying due to his disability.”

His mother plans to file a police report. “The bullies think they can continue with this behavior,” said Alex’s mother. “They need to be reminded that there are consequences to stealing and bullying.”

According to a WGN report, students quickly created a GoFundMe page to raise money for school supplies for Hernandez and reached their $800 goal in several days.

Texas Health and Human Services Agencies Transform Sept. 1

At the direction of the Texas Legislature, the state’s health agencies have begun restructuring.

picture of the Texas Capitol building
The Texas Legislature determined that the five departments of Health and Human Services would better serve Texas with fewer divisions.

The changes will consolidate Health and Human Services’ five agencies to three, eliminating the Departments of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and Aging and Disability Services (DARS and DADS).

While there are widespread changes, according to their website, “No programs were eliminated as a result of the system overhaul.”

On Sept. 1, look for client services combined into one division at HHSC. The Medical and Social Services Division will connect behavioral, medical, preventive care, disability, developmental and other services into one area.

Learn more about the why and how the changes will take place from a previous Sign Shares’ blog post here.

According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s website, “On Sept. 1, about 4,000 employees and more than 120 programs and functions will officially ‘move’ to the Health and Human Services Commission from four other health and human state agencies.”

The move, according to the announcement, includes “many client services and administrative functions to HHSC, which administers Medicaid, CHIP and other services.”

“Most people won’t notice a change, other than hopefully it’s easier for them to find what they need.” said Executive Commissioner of HHSC, Charles Smith.

Screen shot of the HHSC website shows Services information group into three categories: Aging, Disability, and Financial.
This screen shot shows how health services supports can now be accessed on the website.

Changes to the agency’s website will be the most notable change, according to the announcement. “The site will have a cleaner look and more intuitive navigation to help people find health and human services information.”

See the new website’s section for Aging, Disability, and Financial Services.