How might we interact with customers without opening our mouths, yet still communicate effectively and convey emotion? What if we could communicate with everyone without speaking?
While learning another language entirely can be daunting, elements of sign language can be used in daily business interactions to continue efficient communication while reducing the need for close proximity for hearing and minimizing airborne particles generated by speaking. This can be useful for both in-person and virtual interactions.
I have witnessed and personally experienced positive effects of using elements of American Sign Language to communicate with people (all except one were hearing) in very loud environments and across distances greater than the current social distancing protocols. We were not all fluent in ASL, but could at least communicate by using numbers, spelling words out, and gesturing with common essential signs. We initially learned to be able to communicate better with our deaf team member, but it stuck as another normal way of talking.
For example, in service industries, ordering and customer interaction could be done via standard signs instead of speaking or even having to touch a screen. Businesses can have visual and easy-to-understand signs/guides/videos on display on-site or virtually. As a virtual example, AI and motion recognition could be used to translate orders from motion to text or other code, which can then be processed digitally to communicate the information or trigger some process. It could also be translated to speech and vice versa for the vision and motion impaired. All would need to be co-created with the deaf and hard of hearing community.