Seattle-based site lets deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing consumers rate businesses on accessibility.

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What do you do? I own and operate a consumer-review website deaffriendly for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing consumers to rate businesses they frequent on how accessible they are. Being we are over 12 percent of the U.S. population and have consumer dollars to spend, it’s important for businesses to learn how to serve us.

Deaf people are probably the most loyal customers you will come across! Creating services and products that are accessible to them is a no-brainer; businesses increase their customer base, increase their revenue and I hear (pun) it’s good karma in the bank! Inclusive business practices are the next big thing! I’m on a mission make the world accessible to us.

How did you get started? I lost my hearing when I was 8 years old. Since then, I’ve been navigating the world as a deaf person in a place that is not always designed for people like me, which creates a set of challenges to my daily life. My parents played a large part in my journey in learning to self-advocate for my needs.

The biggest challenge we face as deaf people isn’t the inability to hear, but the negative attitude of others and their misconceptions about us. I work hard every day to erase those misconceptions and build awareness.

What’s a typical day like? I meet up with my all-deaf team at our shared workspace at Ballard Labs. We read over every review that comes in on our website from deaf consumers all over the nation, and we connect with businesses to help them become more deaf-friendly in the form of personal feedback, educational content and engaging training. We’re currently working on several exciting initiatives in the consumer market as well as employment and health care.

What’s the best part of the work? The best part of my work is, hands down, the impact deaffriendly is making on the lives of 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the USA. Hearing individuals who may have no connection to a deaf person now have the ability to learn about deaf people and their unique needs. We’re reframing our existence in the world and creating social change on a large scale!

What surprises people about what you do? It surprises many people when they learn that our website consists mostly of positive reviews (80 percent are positive). Deaf people really do share their love for businesses that are accessible and friendly to them. They just want the same level of service that hearing people receive at their local café, their doctor appointments, the hair salon they frequent, the hotel they visit, the airline they travel with, among others.

Daily life as a deaf person can be a pain in the butt, but it doesn’t have to be! A few simple changes to how the world engages with us makes a huge impact on our daily lives. Not to mention the rich takeaway that you will gain from learning to connect with a deaf person. That’s a life skill like no other.

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