The Deaf Ecosystem
Discover what the Deaf Ecosystem is, the dos and don’ts, how it thrives, and how you can support it. Click here to read all about it!
As allies of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, we continually work toward collective empowerment of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people by increasing accessibility. One way we do this is by educating ourselves on what the Deaf Ecosystem is.
What is the Deaf Ecosystem?
The Deaf Ecosystem is a vast network of Deaf people, organizations, schools, communities, and other social groups and institutions that come together to support one another by sharing resources, money, and opportunities for and by Deaf people.
One of the goals of the Deaf Ecosystem is to make the Deaf community thrive and be self-reliant. A Deaf Ecosystem is created when the community invests in:
- Deaf businesses
- Deaf professionals and artists
- Organizations that support the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Deaf state-funded schools
Supporting the Deaf Ecosystem is crucial for preserving and growing Deaf culture and the Deaf community.
As part of the Deaf Ecosystem, we all work together to advance the socioeconomic, ethical, and political betterment of deaf, deafblind, deaf-disabled, and late-deafened people around the world. By bringing awareness to the Deaf Ecosystem, we are cultivating opportunities for Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities to thrive and achieve brighter futures.
For example, Deaf business owners face societal barriers and lack of entrepreneurial support, which hinders their ability to grow their businesses. Our support will lead to social and economic influence, increased retention, and expansion of jobs, resources, and wealth within the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.
How do Corporations support the Deaf Ecosystem?
The world is becoming more inclusive every day and businesses are playing a big role in that change. Below are a few examples of commitment to the Deaf community:
- Starbucks opened its first U.S. “Signing Store” for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in 2018. This store is located on the H Street corridor in Washington, D.C. This Deaf-friendly Starbucks is where the staff are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, sign language is an option and technology is available that makes the coffee experience accessible. The Washington location was modeled on the Seattle-based coffee chain's first Signing Store, which opened in Malaysia in 2016. Of the location’s 25 employees, 19 of them are deaf. Amazing! There are now “Signing Stores” around the world, including Japan, China and Indonesia.
- In 2019, Comcast launched a Customer Service program called ASL Now for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in American Sign Language. For this, Comcast partnered with Connect Direct, a subsidiary of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD). Customers can now call support and have ASL access for Internet Essentials, Xfinity Internet, and general Xfinity billing questions. 57% of people with disabilities do not even have a home broadband subscription. This program helps ensure that members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community can get connected to the internet at home without barriers.
- In 2020, Chase Bank opened its first branch location aimed at serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in Washington, D.C. This location can also be found in the H Street corridor. Customers can use digital screens with captions and an on-demand video interpreting service. They can also get financial planning guidance from employees who are fluent in American Sign Language.
- Apple, in partnership with Gallaudet University, launched new guides in Apple Maps in 2022. The new guides help connect the Deaf community to the global signing ecosystem. The new guides are titled:
- The Gallaudet Neighborhood
- Deaf-Owned Businesses in the D.C. Area
- All About Gallaudet
- Deaf Schools and Programs for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
The guides bring greater awareness of the vibrant Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to the larger hearing population and showcase a wide range of Deaf-owned and Deaf-friendly organizations for Apple Maps users. As a bonus, Apple also has an Apple Store at the Carnegie Library with Deaf and Hard of Hearing staff, in addition to onsite interpreters for consultation and training with Apple devices.
As the world presses ahead, we recognize that corporations are starting to see the value of Deaf and Hard of Hearing users and community members and be contributors by democratizing technology through products and services designed for everyone. Starbucks, Comcast, Chase, and Apple, as mentioned above, are fantastic examples of accessible innovation.
How can you support the Deaf Ecosystem?
One of the most important ways you can support the Deaf Ecosystem is by investing in Deaf-led businesses and organizations. These businesses and organizations are often run by members of the Deaf community and provide goods and services that are tailored to the needs of the Deaf community. Here are several ways you can support below:
- Shop at Deaf-owned businesses
- Hire a Deaf professional to do services that your workplace or household needs
- Donate to your local organization that serves Deaf and Hard of Hearing people
- Share, post, and spotlight Deaf-owned businesses on your social media accounts
- Donate time, money, and resources to organizations and schools that serve Deaf and Hard of Hearing people
- Support local initiatives in your town and states that help accessibility and inclusion for the Deaf
- Support deaf children in their choice when pursuing undergraduate education at Gallaudet University, Rochester Institute of Technology, California State University-Northridge, and SouthWest College for the Deaf
- Talk to your family and friends about Deaf-owned businesses like Streetcar 82 Brewing Co., Mozzeria, Crepe Crazy, etc.
- Sell or teach ASL or ASL-related products without involvement or approval from Deaf or Hard of Hearing perspectives.
- Host ASL workshops or seminars without the consultation of or involvement of the deaf community.
- Glamorize sign language interpreters or hearing people who use ASL with a lack of recognition for deaf people themselves.
- Hand out propaganda with misleading messages that prioritize assistive devices and the ability to hear as the only or cure-all solution for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people.
- Perpetuate ill-conceived notions of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and assign expectations based on common tropes and stereotypes.
- Deny sign language access for deaf children, which causes language deprivation, while popularizing the use of baby signs for hearing children.
- Deprive Deaf and Hard of Hearing children’s opportunity to explore various communication modes, which restricts their growth and access to education.
We here at Nagish are proud to be a part of the Deaf Ecosystem. We know there is more work to do, and we remain committed!