Uber is assisting riders in communicating with hearing-impaired drivers

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It’s hard to find good news for Uber these days, what with massive money losses and its expulsion from major cities, but a recent update to the app serves as a bright spot in a rather dark time for the company. On Thursday, September 28, the transportation giant debuted new tools needed to connect with drivers who use American Sign Language (ASL).

ASL, the sign language used by much of the deaf community in North America, is said to be the fourth most commonly used method of communication in the U.S. As such, it comes as little surprise that Uber is attempting to make it easier for passengers and drivers alike to communicate in this language.

While the company originally launched features aimed toward the deaf and hearing impaired back in 2015, in honor of National Deaf Awareness Month, Uber has taken things a step further. Now, you can learn how to sign basic phrases in ASL using the Uber app. “Every day, millions of Uber rides start the same way. The rider says his or her name and the driver confirms it,” Uber noted in a blog post. “It’s a typical exchange that many riders take for granted — especially since thousands of people who drive with Uber are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and collectively they’ve completed millions of trips.”

Now, in your Uber feed, you’ll see a special card that sends you to a page where you can select basic tutorials in ASL. Through the Uber app, you’ll be able to learn to sign “hello,” “thank you,” or the letters of your name. The app will also provide a GIF with the selected words in ASL, making it easier still for you to communicate with a differently abled driver.

“We believe in technology’s power to bring people together and create opportunities where they didn’t exist before,” Uber noted. “Actions mean more than words, and we’re excited to create new and meaningful ways for people to earn money and connect, regardless of how they communicate. We hope this small update will contribute to a much larger conversation between riders and drivers around the world.”