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While 40 million Americans have hearing loss, only 25 percent of those 40 million have hearing aids at all for various reasons, including the stigma of hearing aids and the incredibly high prices — they can cost up to 6 times more than an iPad!

So essentially, more than 30 million Americans with hearing loss are trying to go about their day. Even for those who know sign language, everyday communication can be incredibly hard, especially when sitting down to have a meal and order when the waiters or the patrons don’t know ASL.

But one Texas restaurant is trying to change that and better accommodate the hearing impaired, thereby becoming hearing-impaired friendly.

Rita’s On The River has been around downtown San Antonio for a while but only recently have they started to incorporate ASL interpreters into their service. They have teamed up with Deaf Link, another San Antonio-based business. Deaf Link provides companies with ASL interpreters for the deaf or hearing impaired by using technology. In fact, here’s how Rita’s On The River and Deaf Link will work: One iPad, one virtual interpreter, and a waiter.

When a Rita’s waiter is waiting on a deaf or hearing impaired person, she can simply pull out one of the restaurant’s iPads, opens up the Deaf Link app, and gets a live, virtual interpreter. From there, the food ordering can go smoothly, without the hearing impaired customer having to worry about understanding or being understood. The technology is called “video-remote interpreting” (Deaf Link also offers and pre-recorded interpreting). How hearing-impaired friendly is that?

This isn’t the first time a restaurant has taken such a huge step in accommodating the hearing impaired. When OrderAssist systems released new hearing-impaired friendly technology to accommodate the hearing impaired at drive-thrus, a Culvers restaurant chain in Columbus, OH began to use the technology and it quickly spread through the country. Far away on the other side of the world, the Atfaluna restaurant in the Gaza Strip had their staff trained in ASL.

by Andrea Garcia Vargas