"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Most Marketable Skill

Bob Clary the Community Manager at Webucator contacted me some time ago and asked if I would share my thoughts for their 2014 "Most Marketable Skill" campaign. It is an honor to be asked to participate.

The "Most Marketable Skill" in my opinion is good communication. Before you think of all the classes you may have taken in "communications", or all the things you may have read, I have something different in mind for you to think about. I approach communication with the focus on access and inclusion.

MILLIONS of Americans suffer with hearing loss. 23% of new hearing aids are being prescribed to our returning veterans who have lost their hearing while serving our country. They are returning home and having to struggle with not hearing telephone conversations or the tv as well as they used to. Because we are living longer, the baby boomer population is dealing with having to cope with hearing loss more than any other generation. Captions are our Access to Language. We use captioned phones, watch captioned tv programs, captioned movies and captioned online videos. Captions are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

If you are going to have commercials or online videos, caption them. You will reach MILLIONS  of people by doing this simple thing. If you don't know where to go or to start, I suggest you visit Collaborative for Communication via Captioning. You can also find captioners at Caption Match.

The telephone is usually the front door to any business. It is by phone most appointments are made. If this is the first contact you or your company have with clients, chances are, you may be missing out on gaining more clients simply by not taking time with them on the phone the first moment you answer.

Have you ever picked up the phone and waited only 1 or 2 seconds, then hung up because no one respond right away when you said, "Hello"? You may have disconnected someone who is Deaf or has lost their hearing, or has a speech impediment and they are calling through a Telephone Relay System.

Telephone Relay Systems take longer than conventional calls because the Calling Agent or Relay Operator must first relay what you are saying to the caller. If they are using a captioned phone, such as many with hearing loss use today, they must first type your words to the caller. Then, the caller reads what was typed and then they respond with their own voice. This can take time. Don't assume all those calls you get are "breathers" on the line. Chances are, it's a relay call, and if you say "Hello" and wait for a response, you may very well have a new client.

If you have a speech impaired client calling, you will hear the voice of the Relay Operator speaking to you on their behalf. The client will type what they want to say, the the RO will read their words to you.

Video Phones for the Deaf work similar. Instead of a Calling Agent typing, however, the call is facilitated by an ASL interpreter. When the client makes a call, they are connected to an interpreter. The interpreter will sign to them what you are saying, then the client will respond in ASL and the interpreter will tell you what they are signing. 

In the case of all kinds of relay calls you must speak slowly so your words can be relayed to the caller. Avoid saying "tell them". Speak to the client. Ignore the Relay Operator. They are not the client. Speak directly to the client.

Take time to learn about these kinds of phone systems and practice learning to take time with your phone calls. 

ALWAYS provide an email address in your advertisements and contact page on your website. Many people with hearing loss and deafness today prefer to communicate via email because when we try to reach out by phone with relay systems, the person on the other end doesn't wait long enough and  hangs up on us.

Not all American citizens speak or use English. We have another American language. American Sign Language. However, we don't do a lot of business with mainstream if we can't communicate. In the ASL or Deaf Community, if something needs to be done, chances are, the person who knows ASL will get the business. The Deaf Community will tell their other deaf friends, and their friends of deaf friends, even their hearing friends.

I highly recommend for everyone to take a basic ASL class. If you take 2 ASL courses, you will get on quite well with any culturally Deaf person. Besides learning the language, you will learn better communication skills in the course, as well as become familiar with Deaf culture itself.

Once you become familiar with ASL and Deaf culture, you can put up a sign in a highly visible area "ASL spoken here." You will be getting many new clients as the word spreads that you are "Deaf friendly". 

There are many aspects to the topic of communication skills, and I hope my perspective of inclusion and access help you become not only more aware of clientele who use ASL, or phones and tv differently, but helps you be successful in meeting their communication needs and your services so you can proudly say you are inclusive and accessible.

Webucator is offering FREE monthly Microsoft training because they believe it's a crucial hard skill to have right now.

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