If you are hard of hearing or Deaf, restaurants can be a very stressful place. It is loud, making it hard to hear, and oftentimes there is no one who signs. It’s a difficult business, really for everyone involved, so the most important thing to remember is that communicating in restaurants is just as difficult for your waiter/ waitress as it is for you. They’re also contending with the same loud noise as you are, and also face the same language barrier as you do (not being able to sign to speak with you). Maybe, they themselves are also hard of hearing and can’t hear your well, so they get your order wrong.
So here are a few things that you can do to make your life easier:
1. Use your phone to communicate.
Probably, the most important piece of technology these days is your phone. It’s a powerful tool that you can use to communicate with your friends. But did you know that it’s easy to use it as a way to communicate with your waiter?
In your phone’s notes app, create a note that introduces yourself and, if you’re comfortable with sharing it, let your waiter know that you can’t hear them well. If you’re not comfortable with sharing that, just let them know that it will be easier for you to write out your information and for them to have patience with you. Save that note, and every time you go to restaurant, you can have the introduction ready so that you don’t have to type it up, and make them wait.
This app will be very useful for the next couple of points.
2. Look up the menu ahead of time.
Many restaurants put their menus up online, and if there is no website, you can try checking Yelp, for user-posted photos of the menu. If you’re in Europe, many restaurants post their menus outside of their door so you can take a look to help entice you to come in. Use that to your advantage.
However you find that information and in whichever format it is presented to you, look it up, and decide on maybe your top 3 dishes of choice. I say top 3 because sometimes the restaurant may have run out of the particular ingredients necessary to make the meal, or they retired that option. Besides, having more than one option that you like allows you to choose depending on your mood. Maybe in the morning you wanted something in particular, but by evening, you decided you really want something else. So give your self those options.
Then, write them down. In your phone’s note app. Along with any changes that you want to your options–for example if you have allergies and/ or really don’t like something in your food.
3. Work with the menu at the restaurant.
If you don’t want to look it up, because you want to be surprised or you simply cannot find a copy of the menu online, you can go ahead and choose from the menu at the restaurant after you get seated. Usually, the good thing is that the restaurant gives you some time to decide, during which time, you can look over the menu, decide and write it down in your phone’s note app. Unlike the above point, you don’t have to choose three options, because you already know how you feel and you know what you really want, so you’re going to immediately go for the option you want.
As in the above option, you can also use the app to write down exactly how you want your plate to be cooked and which ingredients you don’t want or do want.
4. Order through the tablet.
Some restaurants, in the United States at least and in most airports, have tablets which allow you to check the menu and order. You can completely forgo the waiter, and use those tablets to order; however, I should warn you–it’s not fully customizable, so you won’t be able to remove any ingredients that are already in the recipe. If it’s an absolute must to remove any ingredients, then this option is not recommended.
5. Have your Hearing friend/family member order for you.
This is pretty much the nuclear option, because I know most of us enjoy a semblance of independence, and this takes away from that. But it okay to ask for help, sometimes. If you can communicate your choice to your family member, and give them the permission to handle food orders on your behalf, this is also a viable option.
At the end of the day, knowing that these options exist will help you have a more enjoyable experience ordering food at restaurants during your travel. If this has helped you, let me know in the comments below!
Likewise, if you have any other ideas, trips or tricks on how to order at restaurants, as a hard of hearing/ deaf individual, also leave me a comment below!