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Helping Phoenix Get “Deaf Friendly” for the NAD conference

Everyone is still talking about how successful the NAD 2016 conference was in Phoenix, Arizona: especially in regards to the equal access at the convention center, the hotels, the surrounding restaurants and bars. All of that is because of the training that they got from DeafFriendly.


DeafFriendly came into Phoenix a week early to grab the opportunity to provide customer service training.  They trained over 200 employees and that impact was long-lasting. For example, all of the captions were turned on on each television set in the Phoenix Convention Center.  This will stay in effect permanently.


We had the chance to chat with Echo Greenlee, founder of DeafFriendly, about her experience in Phoenix.


Melissa: Now, it’s my understanding that this is the first time there has been DeafFriendly training at the conference, is that right?


Echo: Yes it is! I’m really looking forward to more training in the future as well, whether it be with NAD or other Deaf organizations. That would be great, and we’re ready to move forward!


Melissa: Can you fill us in a little bit about your experience with...what was it over 200 employees?!


Echo: Yes!


Melissa: Wow..what was that experience like?


Echo: Before training had even started, I arrived at the hotel and noticed that there were a lot of improvements that could be made in general. During training, it was remarkable to see how motivated the staff was, and how willing they were to learn gestures, sign, and basic communication like writing back and forth. It was inspiring to see. After training was completed, the staff had learned basic signs and gestures, and although there were some sign production mistakes, the effort was there, and that’s key.



Over 2,000 Deaf and DeafBlind people attended NAD, and all felt very welcome the minute they entered the hotel.  The staff was immediately welcoming, using sign language to greet them, and they were very conscious of their space.  For example, they knew to work with Deaf space - when Deaf people are chatting, they knew to just casually cross the space rather than making it obvious or interrupting.   


In the hotel rooms, the staff knew to respect space as well by flicking the lights when opening the room rather than just barging in.  Flashing doorbells and vibrating alarm clocks were also given as part of their ADA kit.


Text service was also available - Deaf people could text the front desk for anything from toilet paper, more pillows or towels, a wine opener, and so on.  That communication was easily accessible for many.  Restaurants in the area had pen and paper ready to communicate.  Local ambassadors in the area knew basic signs to help with directions and questions.


The experience wasn't only meaningful for Deaf and DeafBlind customers, but for the hearing staff as well.


Hotel Lobby Lady: Most of the staff here have never met a deaf person before, so it was great to have you teach the class.


Echo: Yeah! That’s great! What was your favorite part of training?


Hotel Lobby Lady: I really really liked that, sign language is different in different countries. [inaudible] So I thought that was really interesting. I never knew that before. Never.


Thanks DeafFriendly for coming and making Phoenix DeafFriendly!


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