When we first met Larry Cotton Jr. he was driving to earn extra income with Uber in the Bay Area. Recently, Larry and his family moved to Los Angeles so he could pursue his passion for filmmaking. Today he’s one of thousands of deaf or hard of hearing drivers who have found flexible and fulfilling work with Uber.
While the unemployment rate in the U.S. is now below 5%, most people who are deaf or hard of hearing still struggle to find work. Unemployment and underemployment among the deaf and hard of hearing is around 70%. Here at Uber, we have added unique product features to make it easier for these men and women to drive on our platform.
Today we’re taking the next step by partnering with the Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), the largest Deaf-led nonprofit in the United States. For more than 40 years CSD has pioneered technology that improves the lives of deaf men and women.
Here’s what we’ll be working on:
- Creating online Uber video support guides in American Sign Language (ASL)
- Hosting sign-up events across the country to get the word out to the Deaf community about the opportunity to drive with Uber
Chris Soukup, CEO of the Communication Service for the Deaf, explained why he’s so excited about the partnership:
“Uber has incorporated accessible technology for Deaf and hard of hearing people directly into their app, providing unprecedented access for the Deaf community to make money by driving with Uber. This partnership with CSD will provide more than a simple opportunity for Deaf driver-partners to give rides to people on the road — it’s an opportunity to build bridges between people and influence a new perception of the abilities and humanity of Deaf people.”
Deaf drivers have already proven to be tremendous partners, providing more rides per month on average than hearing drivers. Deaf partners across the U.S. have collectively earned more than $10 million — all by helping people get around town.
“I get to meet new and interesting riders all the time and drive around people who have never interacted with the deaf community before,” said Alicia Johnson, a Washington, D.C. driver who has completed more than 1,500 trips with Uber. “Plus, I’m able to make money in a flexible way so I can pursue my other passions, like playing football and coaching softball.”
Our research team has worked closely with deaf and hard of hearing drivers to better understand the challenges they face and how we can improve their experience. 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.
As Deaf advocate John Maucere says, “I am from a third-generation Deaf family. It’s always the same story; there is a mistaken belief among many that being deaf is a barrier to working. Uber’s technology offers a brand new experience and gives the Deaf community a chance to make money and be independent.”
To celebrate our new partnership with CSD, we are hosting a Deaf and hard of hearing driver appreciation event at Uber’s DC Office on April 20th at 6pm. If you’re Deaf or hard of hearing and interested in driving with Uber, sign up here.
- The unemployment and underemployment rate among the deaf community is 70%. (2013 American Community Survey (ACS))
- More than 37 million people in the U.S. report some hearing loss. (2012 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Survey)
- Employed workers with a severe hearing loss typically earn only 50–70% of their hearing peers and lose between $220,000–$440,000 in earnings over their working life. (2010 National Institutes of Health White Paper)