Tech Tuesday: Uber builds app to teach drivers, riders basic sign language

The app helps Uber riders learn basic American Sign Language skills to communicate with their drivers.

Uber launched a new tool in September aimed at making the interactions between deaf passengers or drivers easier for both sides.

It's called Ubersignlanguage.com. If you access it on your mobile device, you'll be taken to an interactive page where you can learn basic sign language words and phrases such as "Hello," "Thank you," "Yes," "No" and "Goodbye." You can even learn how to spell your name in sign language.

"It's amazing. It's a good start," Uber driver Seth Gerlis said after looking at the page. Gerlis is a deaf Uber driver but his lack of hearing has never hindered his driving.

"I've done about 4,000 rides," he said. "Here in Austin and also in Washington, D.C, Maryland and Virginia."

Gerlis said that while Uber does have an app designed for deaf users, he purposefully uses the regular app due to a high rate of cancelled rides in the past.

"Among customers who get a message saying your driver is deaf," he said, "there's a lot who cancel the ride."

Gerlis reviewed the Ubersinglanguage.com site for KVUE and said he appreciates the effort by Uber, but thinks it needs to specifically be used before a driver shows up or after the rider is in the car.

He said someone using the app to learn the signs would be appreciated, but someone trying to show him the app would be distracting.

"It would take my focus away from driving," he said.

While he did have a few tweaks he'd recommend, Gerlis said he was happy overall with the site and appreciative that Uber was helping him again.

"Uber is a beautiful job for deaf people," he said. "It's a beautiful job for them. Deaf people can be similarly situated to other cab drivers and there's a lot of other opportunities for them out there and sometimes deaf people don't have that opportunity. So I'm grateful to Uber."

For more on Uber's ideas and goals behind the site, check their blog post.

TAP OR CLICK HERE to learn more about Ubersignlanguage.

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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