On the Menu: Deaf-Friendly Restaurants

Road-tripping? Keep these 7 spots in mind!

The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act improved equity and access in employment, public accommodations, services, and so much more for people living with disabilities, including hearing impairment.

Some businesses, however, go above and beyond to ensure a better experience for patrons with hearing or speech challenges.

For your summer travels, we’ve put together a quick list of restaurants that go the extra mile to ensure your hearing and communication experience is just as good as your dining experience. Keep them in mind as you plan your next road trip!

  • Molly Moon’s — Seattle, WA

    This popular ice cream stop — rhubarb cardamom sorbet, anyone? — with several Seattle-area locations includes employees trained in American Sign Language, according to a recent KOMO News story, creating a more inclusive, welcoming experience.

  • Crêpe Crazy — Austin, TX

    The deaf owners of this growing business not only rock sweet and savory crepes — caprese, Mediterranean medley, lemon zest dust, and more — but also offer easy ordering with sign language or pointing, and they make it a point to hire hearing-impaired community members.

  • Pizzabar — Newport Beach, CA

    This casual eatery close to the Newport pier offers pizza, pasta, fried calamari, and other choices galore. It also sports a sign-language-interpretation kiosk for ease of ordering, making it the first restaurant certified as deaf-friendly by the kiosk installer, Language People.

  • Starbucks Drive-Thru — St. Augustine, FL

    Customers using the drive-thru at this particular Starbucks near the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind can use the ordering screen’s two-way video, letting them communicate with a barista in sign language.

  • Mozzeria — San Francisco, CA

    Whether you’re ASL-fluent or not, you’re welcome at this pizza-and-more spot owned by a deaf couple and staffed with deaf or hard-of-hearing employees. Options for easy ordering include pen and paper, pointing, and sign language.

  • &pizza — Washington, D.C.

    The H Street location of this bustling chain sits near Gallaudet University, the renowned school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Staff, who serve a diverse population of hearing and nonhearing patrons, typically know ASL or some basics of signing.

  • Culver’s — Buffalo Grove, IL

    This local outlet of a national burgers-and-frozen-custards franchise installed a bell system at its drive-thru, letting deaf or hard-of-hearing customers alert staff if they need to pull forward and order using a menu form instead.

We applaud these businesses for going over and above to accommodate their customers’ communication needs, and we hope to see others across North America follow suit. Interested companies should connect with local resources such as audiology clinics, chambers of commerce, schools for deaf students, or sign-language-interpreting agencies for helpful tips.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • A 2003 Inclusion Solutions survey of over 6,400 people regarding drive-thru dining access and assistance found that “access is a major concern to the deaf community and others.”
  • In the same survey, nearly 80 percent of respondents with a preference would welcome call buttons to alert for help and “pull ahead to place the order in an alternative way.”

Know a deaf-friendly restaurant or two that should be on this list? Send us your recommendations!