Monday, June 16, 2008

Consider This......

A few days ago I posted about a late deafened woman who was denied service at a restaurant because she could not hear. The situation was that she was trying to use the drive through window and the manager became upset when she would not follow procedure by going to the speaker first.

Hello? She is deaf. Therefore she would NOT BE ABLE TO HEAR from a speaker box!

I have to admit when I first discovered she was going through a drive through instead of going into the restaurant to order I was like "Huh? You are deaf so why would you use the drive through?" I had another friend with hearing loss think the same thing at first until she found herself in a position of wanting to use the drive-thru because she just got out of the shower and was not looking very presentable. Further, the restaurant was busy and filled with tons of people.

Now I am not a fast food connoisseur. If I ever do consume food from a fast food restaurant on a very rare occasion it would be a small vanilla ice cream cone or a shake from McDonald's, a salad from Wendy's, or a roast beef sandwich from Arby's. My point it that I would not often find myself in this situation because I don't eat fast food. Additionally, I don't have any kids which may make it hard to see myself needing to use a drive-thru at a restaurant.

Before you pass off the incident as being insignificant consider this....

A) You are a deaf or hard of hearing mother with an infant in the car and you just want to stop and get a coffee or juice in the morning on the way to where ever you want to go (maybe a doctor checkup). Now for those who do not have kids, you may think going in the restaurant is no big deal. However, IT IS!

Now again I do not have kids but I am the oldest of 3 siblings 7 and 10 years apart from me in age. Further, as I am in my 30s I have plenty of friends whom I have witnessed caring for their babies. Wha! It is lots of work and a HUGE deal getting the kid out of the car seat and then carrying them around everywhere you go. I am amazed at the physical demands of such and the balance and stamina needed just to do the simple task of carrying a kid around in a car seat or without.

Now remember, you just wanted to quick grab a coffee or juice? Well if you had to go through all the work of taking the kid out of the car it really wasn't worth it and would make you late for where ever you are going.

Some people might say "Leave the kid in the car." Well that could present a number of problems you might not foresee. Is it even legal to do that? Second, let's day it is really hot out and the restaurant is really busy so it may take 15 minutes or longer to get what you want. Meanwhile, the car is cooking up and temperature rising with your child trapped inside while you wait for your order.

I am a dog owner. Luckily I have a truck with a canopy so they have lots of room and it has windows for ventilation. Still, on hot days I am very cautious or where I park and try to find shade so the back of the truck does not heat up inside. I also provide them water and watch the time that I am gone.

So that brings me to the next situation:

B) You are a deaf or hard of hearing dog owner but only with a car with your dog inside. It is an extremely hot day and again the restaurant is busy (Perhaps it is lunch time). There are warnings given out by the animal shelter that in this situation 10-15 minutes can put your pet in dangerous medical situation of dehydration. Now you may have gone through dehydration yourself but were you wearing a fur coat on your entire body in temps above 100 degrees at the time? Don't believe me that I am serious? Think it is a wives's tail? A good friend of mine would regrettably tell you it is true as she lost her 8 year companion to a situation like this. The vet tried attempted to save the dog by administering IV fluids but it was too late.

C) As a deaf or hard of hearing person, you are on the road traveling and are super hungry. There is only one restaurant at a pull off to get some quick food. Unfortunately however, the entire football, basketball, hockey, track, or cross country team got to the restaurant before you. The whole team and parents are in there ordering right now. Can you wait that long? Are you in a hurry to get back on the road?

D) You are a deaf or hard of hearing person with a physical disability making it an obstacle to go into the restaurant. It would be much quicker and accommodating for you to you the drive-thru to order.

I will provide one last situation as I could come up with many.

F) You are a deaf or hard of hearing mother with 3-6 children in the car....even 2 would make going inside the restaurant inconvenient. You just want to grab some food and have lunch at the park with the kids as it is a nice day. Being the responsible parent you are, you don't want to leave them in the car. It would be a hassle to lug your whole crew inside just to order and get your food. Being able to use the drive-thru would make life so much easier and save time.

After all, that is why they created drive-thrus. Right? ;o)


Kathy said...

Ok, so once again you deliver a superb entry making my brains wheels turn! It solidified my thoughts on a touch screen type menu. My husband's Grandfather is severly dislexic. Actually I don't think he can write his point is not only would a touch screen with pictures of the menu items be utilized & user friendly to the deaf/hoh but also dislexic & pet owners as well. Being a proud mommy (pet owner) of 5 super fab dogs I couldn't agree more with your thoughts on having pets & the whole drive-thru situation. It's a good thing I rarely frequent fast food joints. But the convienence of a drive thru that is more user friendly than the alien speaking hodge podge out of the speaker would be rather spiffytastic!! =) Fantastic way to get my brain moving on a Monday Becky!! =)

Karen Putz said...

Hi, thanks for spotlighting the drive-thru situation for deaf and hard of hearing people.

There really is no discussion about whether or not we have a right to use a drive thru--the simple answer is yes. We have the same right as anyone else using the drive thru--it simply needs to be made accessible for deaf and hard of hearing people.

Maybe someday, all the drive thrus will be equally accessible for all deaf and hard of hearing consumers. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm also an infrequent fast food patron. This particular incident is unacceptable and I agree and support wholeheartedly the basic standard of equally effective communication access, in general, for everyone.

Still, as for being HoH/deaf, I have drive-thru experiences spanning 15+ years, and my experiences have been generally quite positive, despite a number of other factors working against me (my own garbled speech, initial lack of experience, inability to smile when I do get to the window). I can recall the rush of feeling when I realized I was deaf and using the drive-thru; sometimes with a car load of kids. I still chuckle at myself, although I do recognize the broader implications now. (I am now musing on what an universally-accessible design for drive-thrus would entail.)

I always at least attempted to place my order at the speaker. (It is kind of weird not knowing if it's at the right time, but so be it.) Now, many places, including Steak 'n Shake, have displays that show the order and total (which is handy for checking the order and preparing exact change to pay, when it works). I don't worry at the speaker about whether I was heard or if I'm asked questions, and then when I get to the window, I clear up any misunderstandings. I am forthcoming about my deafness, and tend to empathize with service workers. Many people learn through doing. I think there is a lot of sensitivity training these days, but when an individual worker is grilled to follow a standard procedure, then they need to handle specific variations as they arise, and it takes practice to adapt.

I bet my friends who are deaf and have also lost their voices to tumor/surgery complications have their orders written in advance, and submit them at the window.

Just another angle, and a larger pool of experiences to consider, I suppose.

I've always been one to try, experiment, and acknowledge situational variations, before writing something off as inaccessible to me.