Local businesses receive training on becoming more deaf-friendly - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Local businesses receive training on becoming more deaf-friendly

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In a meeting room at the Frederick Chamber of Commerce Tuesday, a handful of local business people got a lesson about the area's sizable deaf community and how they can be more welcoming to them.

"A lot of what we learned was basic greetings," says the Chamber's Lauren Hagan. "When somebody walks in your business, you want them to feel welcome. So just saying 'thank you, hello, how can I help you?' Simple things like that."

The company offering this training is called HIS Sign. It's a Frederick-based firm providing sign language interpreters for the community.

"We feel this will give you what we call the 'halo effect,'” says Ron Burke of HIS Sign. "You, as a hearing person, will go to this business and see the sticker on the door, see the certificate on the wall that 'we are deaf friendly.' And what's that going to make you feel? That's going to make you feel like these are good people. They're reaching out to a community."

One of the business people in class was Kris Anderson. He's membership director at Holly Hills Country Club in Ijamsville.

"Personally, I think it's extremely important with any culture to bridge that gap," Anderson says, "and become a little bit more unified as a business community."

We are told there are more than 8,000 deaf or hard of hearing living in the Frederick area. The city is also home to the Maryland School for The Deaf.

"Many people don't realize that first step is just being willing to learn and being open to that," says Julie Bourne through an interpreter. She was born deaf. "And from there, it could be enough to just take that multiple more steps and to move forward. Just to learn more would be great."

The businesses taking part in the class were also offered in-person or live online interpreters - for a fee. It's $3 per minute for the live online service.

You can also teach yourself the art of sign language. There are several apps you can download on your smartphone or tablet and other helpful tools available on the internet.

In the meantime, business people like Anderson are getting stickers to put in their windows to show they are a deaf-friendly business.

"So for us, it was a win-win," he says. "A very simple thing to do."

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