Since the opening of the first Signing Starbucks earlier this week, both media coverage and the public's reaction has shown just how important and impactful this step is in accommodating disabilities.
When I started college last fall, I decided to take American Sign Language instead of Spanish simply because I needed a change of pace. I didn't think about my potential to accommodate Deaf people or people with hearing problems.
When I began my ASL classes, I learned more from my Deaf professor than I ever anticipated to. He didn't just teach us signs - he taught us about their culture, their hardships, and just how important it is for them to be accommodated in everyday life. I never thought that anything I learned would affect my daily life, but I was pleasantly surprised.
This past summer, after taking two ASL courses, I was pretty decent at signing. I could hold a basic conversation. I was at work one day, and a Deaf man with a very young child was trying to order food while one of my coworkers was trying to take his order. She was very embarrassed that she couldn't understand him, and he was visibly frustrated that he couldn't order his food.
It was very gratifying to be able to step into the situation and start signing with him, making sure that I placed his order correctly and that he had gotten everything he needed. He was very excited and surprised when I came up to him and started communicating with him in a way that worked for both of us, not just for me.
As humans, we have to remember that not everyone is exactly the same. Some of us can't hear, or see, or speak, or walk. There are endless amounts of disabilities that divide us. The closer we get to closing that gap, the better we are as a human race. What if we made basic sign language communication or braille restaurant menus just as available as wheelchair ramps are? Small steps such as these are giant leaps in the right direction for our disabled communities. We don't realize how good we have it as fully-abled humans - it's about time we use our privilege to help our friends have the same opportunities that we do.