What Riders Often Say When They Find Out I’m Deaf

I’d like to talk about my experiences in encountering individuals who have shared their insights about my being Deaf. Everyone has different perspectives and opinions, so let me share mine. Before I go on, it may help to visit this page [Community and Culture – Frequently Asked Questions] to learn a bit about certain words and identities within the Deaf community.

As you may know, I’m a driver for Lyft and Uber, where 95% of my riders are hearing.

I’ve also had blind riders —if you were wondering how we communicate, it was a piece of cake! When I learn my rider is blind, I immediately send a text message to let him/her know that I’m Deaf. I typically get a reply saying, “No problem. Thank you.” Cool beans! With the hearing riders, they usually say the same things:

“I’m sorry for not knowing sign language/I wish I knew sign language/I used to know some, I forgot, my bad…”

My response: It’s fine, and I’m sorry I don’t use my voice except when I’m angry! LOL. (To see a previous blog I wrote about communicating, click here.)

“Do you read lips?”

My response: I always say no, even if I can read lips a bit, and open a voice-to-text app to chat with the rider. This question is the most misleading one, because even the most experienced lipreader catches only 20-30% of the words; the rest is guesswork. So this means most lipreaders don’t catch even 20%. It’s better to use other ways, such as writing or texting, for brief, superficial conversations. It’s my goal to make every person comfortable in talking with me, which is why I have over 2,000 five-star ratings from satisfied riders!

“You should get a cochlear implant!”

My response: This is a hot-button issue within the Deaf community.  It’s certainly an option for many, but for me, I choose to not receive one for many reasons. I’m perfectly content being Deaf without hearing aids or cochlear implants (I haven’t worn a hearing aid since the eighth grade!). I was born Deaf, and don’t know any different — which is just fine with me. Besides, when I wear hearing aids, it becomes very irritating and I’m not able to distinguish sounds from each other.

Some people receive cochlear implants later in life, others receive implants early in life — and for many different reasons. I have friends with cochlear implants who are still culturally Deaf, and I have other friends who aren’t as culturally Deaf as before receiving their implants. I’ve heard many, many stories — some positive, some very sad — about implantation.

Again, implantation is an individual preference. I prefer to be fully Deaf, physically and culturally.

“You’re Deaf? I’m so sorry!”

My response: Don’t be.  You’re not sorry for who you are, and I’m not sorry for who I am. It’s perfectly fine.

The most important thing is to be patient, since I may be the first Deaf person riders have met — or maybe I’m not the first, but they had bad experiences with the previous Deaf person they met. The bottom line is we are all humans, and we all have different personalities, characteristics, and perspectives, whether we’re Deaf or hearing, and whether we’re drivers or riders.

Why Deaf Business Owners Has Increased Even More?

I’m a bit late in posting this blog…but I have a good reason: I just got back from Mexico for my birthday. Much to my delight, the rain stopped when I arrived there, and I had a blast with my friends! I’ve shared some photographs.

In my last blog, I mentioned that I would write about why Deaf businesses have grown in recent years. But I realized I had too many unresolved feelings and struggles to write about this. As you may remember, I owned a business that wasn’t as successful as I had hoped because of external circumstances. Through that process, I realized that a major reason many Deaf people launch their own businesses is because of discrimination; rather than struggling with employment, they decide to establish their own businesses. But that’s a topic for another time; in the meantime, I’d like to write about something more positive.

There’s some changes with my relatively new business, Referrals By Robb. I’ve updated my company’s slogan from “A Deaf Business Network in One Place” to “● Join ● Promote ● Shop” 

Join. If you’d like to join Lyft or Uber as a driver, you can enjoy your own schedule, earning money to make your piggy bank grow, and get discounts as a rider. As a Lyft and Uber driver, I can confirm that they’re great companies to work for! You can sign up via my link on the “Drive or Ride” page

Another way you can join is becoming an Amazon Associate and/or eBay Affiliate, and start selling and earning just like I do!

Promote. Are you a Deaf or Hard of Hearing business owner? You can promote your business on my Business Directory page at no cost! Fill out the following form and wait for approval just a few days away. 

Shop. If you prefer to shop without becoming part of any program, shop on Amazon or eBay via Robb’s A-Z Store and help me earn points. I’d be happy to share recommendations on various products. Thank you for your support! 

The purpose of Referrals By Robb is to help anyone who wishes to join, promote, or shop and help support the Deaf business owner community!

I’m so happy as a Deaf, self-employed person, especially being my own boss. Thank you once again for your support. A bit early, but Happy Patrick’s Day — I particularly like the name “Patrick” (it’s my last name!), so it’s a great holiday for me. Don’t forget to grab a Green Shamrock shake or even a green beer! 



Tips for Communicating with Hearing Riders

I’m back! 2017 hasn’t been too great a year, with so many natural disasters and too many violent situations around the world. We must stay positive, help each other, and pray for all of us.

I’d like to talk briefly on how I, as a Lyft and Uber driver, communicate with hearing riders. It isn’t as hard as you’d think; all it takes is some flexibility and proactivity. Just like any other Lyft or Uber driver, my goal is to make the riders feel comfortable.  As soon as a rider hops in  my car, I give them a bottle of water, and tell them to feel free to play their favorite music. And of course, they can turn it up as loud as they want!

I also downloaded a great app, Sorenson Buzzcards (available for iPhone or Android), which allows me to write notes or save oft-used messages; another great app for communication is Cardzilla, which was created by a Deaf guy. I also store a few jokes on my phone that I can share with riders to help break the ice. This is easily done when not driving, such as waiting at a red light. I also use speech-to-text apps so that riders can speak to me. When I’m not driving, I can respond by texting back, or I can gesture a response.

Another idea is making a video similar to this. Keep in mind that ASL is a separate language from English with its own grammar/syntax and vocabulary. It’s a great language to learn — if you’re an ASL student, you could even get to practice your ASL skills with a Deaf Uber or Lyft driver!  I hope you enjoy the video. You can also visit the Drive or Ride page.  (Facebook— be sure to click LIKE!).

In the new year, I’ll be writing about Deaf entrepreneurs being on the rise. Meanwhile, it’s time to go shopping — happy holidays to you all!


Robb, Patches, & Coco

As a CEO, I Made a Decision

One evening, I was watching “Girlboss,” a new comedy on television. I cracked up at the main character, Sophia, because she actually reminded me of…myself. She struggles to make a life in San Francisco after losing her job, trying to pay her rent and make ends meet. Just like me; I recently closed down my company and am trying to make ends meet. I won’t spoil the show for you, but there are many funny scenes in that show that hit home for me.

Just like Sophia, I am living by myself in a big city. I struggled to find a job, because I’m Deaf and despite my successful career, people were hesitant to hire me. I decided to take matters into my own hands, and launched Referrals by Robb — just like Sophia, who launched a fashion business on eBay.

Forming a company is an example of system development, which I studied in college. As the former founder and CEO of a hiking company, I worked with different individuals, who were all hearing. I am Deaf, and use American Sign Language (ASL). I had an assistant who was hearing. Whenever I shared my input, thoughts, and/or concerns, he often would dismiss me, even though he was not at the helm of the company. We would use instant messaging software to talk with each other, since his ASL was rudimentary and not easily understood, nor could he easily understand a fluent signer like me.

After understanding the complexities of audism, and accepting the fact that I could not change things, I decided to close the company. There were also other underlying reasons, but the primary reasons were simple.

First, I had the goal of seeing the company expand within five years. If it did not, I would change careers. Second, I believed that with modern-day accommodations such as video relay services and online messaging, people would be comfortable in communciating with Deaf people like me. This was not the case.  For example, some companies were uncomfortable talking to me via video relay services.

Third, my assistant, who was hearing, blatantly overreached his position by using his hearing status as an advantage. I at first respected his opinions and input, especially given his older age and professed wisdom. However, now in retrospective, I realize I engaged in dysconscious audism — internalized attitudes that the hearing way is superior and better because I am Deaf. I was, simply put, steamrolled and bullied into thinking my expertise, knowledge, and skills were worthless because I was Deaf.  Every time I asked my assistant, “What happened?” the answer I got was, “We have to work harder.” In reality, my mistake was putting all my trust in him to handle all calls, contacts, and so on. I should have had a check and balance system in place. It was a very difficult lesson for me, but one that will serve me well in my future endeavors.

After seven years, I was no longer interested in repeating this cycle, and I was miserably burned out. As a CEO, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I felt as if I was wrong all the time, and I was embarrassed by my self-perceived weakness in allowing my staff to run the business without my discretion and final say. So I made a decision: I closed the company.

Although it was a very difficult decision, one that I still think about, I believe steadfastly that it was the right decision. As I watch Sophia learn from her experiences, I laugh not because it’s comical, but because I can absolutely relate and affirm what she experiences. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned, and I look forward to being a much stronger, more confident business owner this time around.

Respectfully, Robb

My background education & career

Hi there! Thanks for visiting my blog. I thought it would be a good idea to share my background and how I got to where I am today.

I attended Illinois State University majoring in applied computer science (systems development) with a minor in communication. Having attended a high school where I was surrounded by Deaf peers who could sign, attending a huge college where I was one of very few Deaf people, it was a challenging experience. Even though I had American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters, it wasn’t the same as having direct communication. Even so, working in groups with hearing classmates worked well, and I graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

Despite what I thought was an impressive resume, most IT companies didn’t feel comfortable hiring me because I was Deaf, and they (mistakenly) believed that hiring an ASL interpreter would be costly. This helped inspire my activism in ensuring companies and organizations adhered to current disability laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is a passion I hold near to my heart, especially for Deaf individuals who have not been given the same wonderful opportunities I have been.

I then relocated to Arizona, and established a hiking tour company. After seven years, minimal staffing, and great demand, I decided it was time to sell my company to a sister company, and begin a new chapter in my life. And that’s how Referrals by Robb, LLC, came to exist. I also work with Uber and Lyft, and have found them to be wonderful employment sources for Deaf individuals.

My ever-faithful companion is Patches, a Deaf dog who accompanies me everywhere I go. With Patches by my side, I look forward to creating a portal of rich resources and information that Deaf people can tap into to learn more about Deaf-owned businesses.

I look forward to learning more about your business!