October 23, 2017
A good hotel’s ultimate purpose is to be hospitable and accommodating to its guests’ needs—this includes the needs of its hearing-impaired and deaf guests. According to the NCRA (National Court Reporters Association), over 28 million Americans are considered deaf or hearing disabled. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, hotels and motels are required to provide effective communication methods to ensure their deaf guests are being properly accommodated. The ADA covers everything from the number of rooms that needed to be accessible to guests who are deaf or hard-of-hearing to requirements for fire alarms and other safety equipment to TV captioning. Here are a few things to double check that you have available to hearing-impaired guests:
In case of emergencies, people who are able to hear tend to be able to rely on audible alarms to alert their attention. The deaf community, however, relies on visual alarms such as bright, blinking LED lights during emergencies. There are some sites that sell portable pads for placing under one’s pillow that vibrate and emit flashing lights. A hotel could offer these devices to deaf guests to ensure they feel comfortable and safe in their rooms. Additionally, be sure your hotel also has visual cues that instruct guests where they need to go during a potential emergency. Similar to the pad alarm, should a deaf guest request a wake-up service, you can accommodate them by providing their room with alarm clocks that vibrate and flash bright lights. Following up with a “wake-up” text message could also be helpful. And don’t forget - be sure the TV has closed captioning
The advantage of living in the 21st century is that technology is constantly advancing, allowing service industries the means to better assist and communicate with their customers. TeleTYpewriter (TTY) services and email have long been utilized for communicating with the deaf community. However, technical issues are prevalent with TTY and you are not always guaranteed a quick response with email. This is where texting comes in handy. Many hotels have seen positive impacts on their overall service scores by offering texting services to their guests in general, but can be especially helpful for those who are deaf, as they are unable to hear their room phone ring or a knock on their door. In fact, the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center experienced this first hand when a hard-of-hearing guest checked into their hotel. From ordering room service to housekeeping, using texting services, this guest to communicate quickly and efficiently.
There are certain steps your staff can take when interacting with deaf guests in order to ensure they feel adequately taken care of. Above all, you should ensure that your staff is comfortable communicating in with deaf guests. If your staff is unfamiliar and uncomfortable communicating with those who are hard of hearing, it may be difficult for them to provide outstanding service, perhaps running the risk that a deaf guest might feel excluded or overlooked. Consider adding sensitivity training into general staff meetings which not only cover hearing-impaired guests, but a whole variety of disabilities. Ensure the team knows to look directly at a hearing-impaired person and speak slowly and clearly (in the case of lip-reading) as well as basic etiquette for grabbing the attention of a deaf guest as to not surprise them by grabbing or tapping them from behind. It may also be helpful to have easy access to contact information for a local interpreter should there be a need for one (especially for hotel with guests who are there for multiple nights).
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