by Julie Cusanelli
March 7, 2007
Sign Language and Business
job or work position is in some way part of the world of
business. From a nanny position to retail to corporate
positions, we all have experience in it. Wouldn’t it be great if
in these positions, that businesses would be able to adapt to
everyone’s needs? Well, that’s exactly what some companies are
starting to do. Take for instance Sign Language, we all have
heard of it and the use of it is rapidly increasing especially
in the business world. Companies are starting to use
interpreters and take classes in Sign Language in order to adapt
to their hearing impaired employee’s needs and their consumer’s
Kathy MacMillian talks about incorporating Sign Language into
company programs in her book titled Try your hand at this:
Easy ways to incorporate sign language into your program.
She talks about how to work with interpreters as well as certain
myths about sign language that were cleared up. Another great
thing she does in her book is talk about how to set up the
program so that Sign Language can be incorporated into it.
company that has started to pay attention to the needs of their
consumers is Apple. Apple has recently launched their new
product, the iPhone. What’s so amazing about this phone is that
the makers actually thought about how this product could be
better used by hearing impaired consumers. The makers of the
phone came up with the idea to create a larger on screen
keyboard. Each key can remain small and within an orderly grid
at first glance; then, by hovering your finger, the on-screen
key is made bigger so that you can see it better," John Maeda
explains. "It's a fairly simple idea and probably not brand new,
but definitely a step forward in the awkward task of typing on a
tiny virtual keyboard" (Scanlon and Walters 2007).
Another company catering to their consumers is Co-op Travel.
There an agent decided to learn Sign Language in order to help
her customer’s plan their holidays. Employee, Emma Powell
decided to learn British Sign Language. It only took her one
year to be able to help consumers feel more comfortable. She was
quoted in the article saying “When I signed, ‘can I help you?’
to them, their faces just lit up” (Yates 2005). Powell was
inspired to learn by her boyfriend’s mom who knew Sign Language
and from that took a 32 week course. With word spreading of the
travel agent who can sign, Powell is able to book many trips for
the hearing impaired. She is able to listen and give feedback to
what they want without anyone getting frustrated. In the end,
everyone is happy.
A new program called
SignBank is another way to make sure the needs of the hearing
impaired are met. What exactly is SignBank? It’s a FileMaker Pro
database application that stores the movements, hand shapes and
facial expressions in a written form of
sign language known
as SignWriting (Business Source Premier 2005). This program was
designed to help the deaf improve literacy, translate and learn
other forms of Sign language. Using this system allows people
to combine Sign Language and English. Many businesses,
government facilities and education facilities are taking part
in this free program. This program allows people in any business
a step ahead.
Companies all over are
making themselves more diverse and accessible to the deaf. They
are doing anything from learning the language to using software
in order to make their business more convenient for all their
2006. Give me a sign. American Libraries, 85.
Walters, H. 2007. The real genius of apple’s iphone. Business
Week Online, 16.
Database, 2005. Deaf children learn to read with Sign Language
database. Business Source Premier, 17, 2.
Yates, N. 2005. A
positive sign for deaf custom. Travel Trade Gazette,