A unique app is working to bridge the communication gap between some customers and employees at Union Market in Northeast, D.C.
The digital agency, Huge, recently rolled out its app "Speak2Sign" at Union Market. The app shows users how to communicate in sign language for specific items they may want to purchase at Union Market. After that, the apps provides users the ability to download a more comprehensive app on their phone that will teach them more about sign language.
Huge developed the idea during a Hack-a-thon event last year. Jenny Madorsky, a senior project manager at Huge's DC division, said her team came up with the idea after observing deaf customers and employees interact at the market.
"We see people here who are interacting in sign language all the time," she said. "And, those of us who don't speak sign language wanted to find a way to learn it in the context with people who can practice it with you."
Union Market is located a few blocks away from Gallaudet University, a private institution for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Huge collaborated on the project with another group named "Ink and Salt". Matt Malzkuhn, of Ink and Salt, is also deaf. He lent his expertise as to how the app could best serve its users.
"It syncs with our mission to make sign language thrive here in DC beyond our communities," he signed to WUSA9. "Also, it will allow people to connect on different levels."
The app is available at five different kiosks at Union Market. One is located next to Peregrine Espresso. Its manager, Allison Bouley, said she's happy to have Speak2Sign next to her business.
"Having Speak2Sign has really opened up the opportunity for us to also be similarly accessible with deaf baristas," she said.
Scott Vollmer, a manager at Union Market, also believes the app has already made an impact.
"This ASL app has been a great tool for our employees and customers to interact," he said.