Matthew Simmons, a part-time clerk at the Vancouver Trader Joe’s, is deaf and relies on lip-reading to communicate with customers who don’t know American Sign Language. Now, due to the COVID-19 crisis, that’s a lot harder because customers are wearing masks.
“I started to get anxiety because I wasn’t sure how to react,” Simmons told KGW TV. “I didn’t know what to do.”
But then his boss, Alexandria Baker, got an idea. She took one of his T-shirts and wrote “Deaf, I read lips” on the front, and “Deaf, please tap me on the shoulder for help,” on the back, and right away customers started lowering their masks just long enough to ask him questions.
“It’s been such a positive experience with no concerns from customers,” he said.
Trader Joe’s managers also let Simmons write messages to customers on the Plexiglas shields at cash registers and gave him wipe boards to use at the checkout stands. One customer wrote, “It must be hard with everyone wearing masks, thank you for your help!”
And if all else fails, co-workers are always near to help bridge the communication gap.
“They’re always there for me because we’re a team,” Simmons said. “And not just a team truthfully, we’re a family and that’s very important in my heart.”