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See, Hear, Know


Effective and efficient communication helps keep the world from tumbling off its axis. For many of us, making ourselves understood by our words and actions allows us to take part in everyday functions of society with minimal concerns. This is not the case for everyone. Individuals who communicate nonverbally have historically been faced with obstacles which have kept them from interacting as freely as those who speak. Social media has specifically played a monumental role as a tool of communication that is accessible for a diverse audience.


For the Deaf community, social media levels the playing field of their opportunity to communicate. These individuals can network, create and share posts and use the platforms for promotion by typing their content. Speech and face-to-face interaction are not the primary methods of interaction on most social platforms, therefore it is not necessary for someone who is deaf to reveal such information unless they choose to.


The Deaf community can use social media to combat the stigma that surrounds their capabilities of possessing and sharing ideas like the rest of society. According to Ryan Commerson, these platforms have helped give him the confidence to be proud of being Deaf[HS4] and use sign language openly. The positive impacts that are accessible by this group from social media can lead to the strengthening of a community.


In addition to the emergence of social media, many organizations are seeking to make their services more accessible to all people and build a community that is not limited to individuals who fit into a particular category. Starbucks has demonstrated its support of the Deaf community by opening a storefront where all team members are fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). This decision is beneficial in a multitude of capacities:


  • Creating jobs for individuals who are Deaf and hard-of-hearing;

  • Raising awareness for the importance of accessibility of services for all people; and

  • Educating the hearing community about the Deaf community and therefore fostering connections between the two.

Howard Rosenblum, who serves at the chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf, believes this initiative will raise awareness of the employment issues that are faced by people with disabilities. Not only will providing jobs to people in these communities result in economic benefits, the morale surrounding the organizations will improve as they are regarded as inclusive and socially aware.


Starbucks is revolutionizing its business model and customer service. The Signing Store is in the same city as Gallaudet University, an educational institution specifically for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. This intentional placement of the storefront is an intentional method of community outreach that demonstrates the value Starbucks has for these individuals and all its customers. Individuals in the hearing and Deaf communities could be more inclined to support Starbucks in other locations because of these actions. The Signing Store provides opportunities of education for hearing customers in ways that demonstrate the culture of the Deaf community. They are also providing them tools to interact with the Deaf community and learn ASL.


The Deaf community has been influenced by social media and awareness raised from public relations and business efforts made by organizations. Windows and doors of communication have been opened in ways that enable these individuals to share their thoughts in a manner that allows all senders and receivers to forget that there are any differences between us.


Erin Smith is a junior from Anderson, Indiana, majoring in public relations and minoring in writing. Erin is an associate with Fifth Street Communications®, a student-run public relations agency at Anderson University.


fsc@anderson.edu | Anderson University (IN)

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