Empowerment Has A Voice: App Features for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Partners

September 25, 2016 / Singapore

When we met Roland, he had already helped more than 2,900 riders in Singapore get around, while driving full-time to provide for his wife and three beautiful daughters. He’s one of many deaf or hard-of-hearing driver-partners who have found flexible and fulfilling work with Uber.

In Singapore, about 3% of our population have some form of disability. While the government encourages employment opportunities for those with disabilities, most people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing still struggle to find work – impacting at least 350,000 people in Singapore.  

That’s why, here at Uber, our research team works closely with deaf and hard-of-hearing partners to better understand the challenges they face and continuously improve their experience on the platform. For over a year in Singapore, we’ve offered these features as a test on our Partner app and we’re excited to see positive feedback from both drivers and riders who have experienced it.


Today, we’re taking the next step in advocating economic empowerment for deaf and hard-of hearing, and engaging local advocacy and interest groups to help further the cause.  

We appreciate Uber’s efforts in opening opportunities for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. We also wish to commend Uber for creating a special deaf-friendly app to enable Deaf and hard-of-hearing partners to communicate with their riders,” said Ms Sylvia Teng, Executive Director of the Singapore Association for the Deaf.

Warren Tseng, GM of Uber Singapore shares, “At the end of the day, everyone just wants to have an opportunity to provide for themselves, their loved ones, and to be a productive member of society. Deaf driver-partners are inspiring examples of resilience and tenacity, in this regard. I’m proud that Uber’s technology for deaf driver-partners widens opportunities for even more Singaporeans to ‘Press a button and earn money’. This is a great example of Uber is able to pioneer the kind of technology that solves real-world problems with real people in mind.

As we commemorate the International Week of the Deaf this year, we can’t think of a better time to introduce our app updates for deaf and hard-of-hearing partners! In a world where people with disabilities face more challenges in a world designed for the able-bodied, these features make it easier for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals to earn a flexible income on their own terms.

Here are some of the features we already offer:


  • Enabling these features in app. We recently added the ability for partners to self-identify as deaf or hard of hearing in the partner app, which unlocks the following features for drivers and their riders.


  • Flashing trip request. The driver’s app signals a new trip request with a flashing light instead of the usual audio notification, making it easier for partners to notice when there’s a new opportunity to give someone a ride.


  • Text-only communication with riders. The ability to call a deaf or hard-of-hearing partner is turned off for the rider — instead riders are directed to text their driver if they need to communicate with them. Partners who use this setting are less likely to have rides canceled after a failed phone call.


  • Riders are notified their driver is deaf or hard of hearing. A message appears letting the rider know that their driver is deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Additional prompt for rider destination. Once a partner accepts a ride, the rider will be prompted to enter their destination in advance rather than telling the driver and asking them to enter the destination manually. The app can then provide turn-by-turn directions for the driver.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to have an opportunity to provide for themselves, their loved ones, and to be a productive member of society. These updates will hopefully extend more opportunities to deaf and hard-of-hearing Singaporeans, while still maintaining the Uber experience riders know and love. We’re excited to bring more great partners onboard, and encourage you to spread the word amongst your community!


  • What are the key features/differences?
    • The Uber Partner app signals a new trip request with a flashing light in addition to the existing audio notification
    • The option to call a deaf or hard-of-hearing driver is turned off; riders are instead given only the ability to text if they need to provide special instructions for pickup
    • The app will add an extra prompt for riders to enter their destination and lets them know their driver is deaf or hard-of-hearing
  • Can deaf driver-partners really stay safe/keep riders safe on the road? E.g. other drivers honking, using text/whiteboards to communicate with riders, etc.
    • Driving is a skilled activity, and anyone who gets behind the wheel is expected to abide by the rules of the road. The majority of the relevant information we receive to perform this task is visual, and there is no evidence to suggest that deaf drivers are at an increased risk for a crash.
      • “Evidence from the private driver’s license holder population does not support the contention that individuals with hearing impairments are at an increased risk for a crash.” – 2008 ECRI Report  
      • “Deafness does not in any way limit a person’s ability to drive a car or other vehicles. Consequently, a deaf driver does not constitute a risk for safe traffic. There is no evidence that deaf drivers are involved in more car accidents, or are at any more risk on the road than those with normal hearing.” – World Federation of the Deaf
      • Almost 100 countries around the world – in Africa, Middle East, Asia, Europe and the Americas – allow deaf people to obtain driver’s licenses. – World Federation of the Deaf survey reports
      • In October 2014, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that deaf truck drivers were allowed to obtain commercial drivers licenses (CDL) and attend CDL training schools. – FMCSA
  • Based on your own rating system, is there a difference between driver-partners with hearing disabilities and those without?
    • Globally deaf drivers ratings are not statistically different from that of non-deaf drivers.
  • Is law enforcement trained and prepared to interact with deaf drivers in the event of an emergency?
    • The Singapore Police Force has a service specifically designed for registered members of the deaf, speech-impaired, and hard-of-hearing community called SMS70999. In the event of an emergency, individuals can send and SMS text to law enforcement and receive assistance.  
  • How will a deaf driver know to pull over for emergency response vehicles or law enforcement?
    • Similar to other drivers, deaf drivers are alerted to emergency vehicles and law enforcement by flashing lights, looking at the actions of other drivers and by using their rear- and side-view mirrors. In fact, research has shown instances where deaf drivers have been able to detect objects in their periphery faster than others.