Uber Sign LanguageVisit website
How do you give directions—or even just say hello—when your Uber driver is hearing impaired?
According to the CSD, the rate of underemployment in the deaf community is 70%. Many deaf or hearing impaired people are finding work in the gig economy, but for those choosing to drive for ride-sharing services, the challenges of communication with riders can be a daunting obstacle in trying to make a living.
Uber wanted to support its hearing impaired community by making communication easier between riders and deaf drivers. To do this, they asked us to bridge the language gap between American sign language and spoken english.
We interviewed deaf drivers to identify the key friction points during a ride—identification of the rider, and providing directions while en route. We learned that many riders had been paired with deaf drivers, but were embarrassed they were unable to sign their name, or even say “thank you.”
Our solution was ubersignlanguage.com—a micro-course in American Sign Language (ASL) connected to the Uber app.Whenever a rider is paired with a deaf driver, they receive a notification within the Uber app which invites them to learn some basic ASL to use during their journey.
Beginning with signing their own name, riders learn essential phrases like “hello,” “turn left,” and “thank you.” While these gestures are simple, we found they make a huge difference in breaking down a barrier of fear in communication, creating a more friendly and comfortable journey.
“The most critical opportunity is when the rider confirms their name for pick-up with the driver. We designed the experience to not only make that work, but to encourage a moment of connection.”
Helping Uber grow
Since our initial rollout, the program has gone live in over 300 cities, and is used by thousands of Uber drivers and riders worldwide.
“We hope this tool will help start a conversation between our riders and our Deaf and hard of hearing partners.”
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