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Many iPhone users rely on Apple Maps to navigate every day. However, Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing individuals may experience obstacles when they try to use mapping technologies. Deaf users may find a new tourist spot or hole-in-the-wall pub on their phone’s map app, but these maps rarely tell Deaf users if these businesses are really Deaf-friendly. Most maps do not highlight information that Deaf people may need to know when they navigate to new places, such as if a business has staff who can communicate in American Sign Language (ASL).
Apple and Gallaudet University are breaking ground by exploring how Apple Maps can better serve Deaf travelers.
Gallaudet’s deep-rooted dedication to making a Deaf-friendly neighborhood make the university an ideal partner for Apple’s Maps Guides project. Gallaudet University is the most prestigious school for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing college students in the United States. The university is unique because it has designed its classrooms, its student study halls, and its dorm rooms with Deaf-friendly technologies and architecture. But Gallaudet’s Deaf community is also active in the surrounding community of NOMA and the larger Washington, DC area. And the university’s Signing Ecosystem maps are the first step in encouraging other tech companies to consider other disability-friendly mapping tools.
What is the Maps Guides Project? On the Apple Maps app, users can open up guides with sites that have been labeled by local community partners. These guides curate specific topics: the best museums in a city, free entertainment, LGBTQ+ sites, and more. Gallaudet has contributed to the Guides Project by labeling Deaf-friendly sites in DC so users can easily identify locations that use sign language or businesses that are owned and operated by Deaf individuals.
Before adding sites to the Signing Ecosystem guide, Gallaudet considered these criteria:
- Is the location’s customer/audience base geared towards the Deaf community with ethical consciousness of our language, culture, and community resources?
- Is the site owned and operated…