A teenage Taco Bell employee's knowledge of sign language unexpectedly came in handy when he was able to communicate with a deaf customer to fill his order, and the story has gone viral online (video below).
Caleb Francis, 18, took sign language as one of his electives in school, saying he had wanted to try something slightly different from what others in his school were taking, according to Little Things. Francis, who said he picked up sign language easily, said he never knows when his skills will come in handy.
One day, his elective showed its usefulness when he saw a deaf customer standing in line looking confused. The man had wanted a side order of salsa and a side of cream, Francis said, but was having difficulty ordering because of his disability. Francis then used his sign language skills to help the customer get what he wanted.
Another customer caught the interaction on camera, and after the video was posted to social media, it went viral, drawing a positive response from users online. Francis said that since the interaction drew attention, he has had three other deaf customers come into the Taco Bell where he works specifically to sign their orders with him.
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In a similar story in March, a teenage Chick-fil-A employee helped a mother and her hearing-impaired daughter to get their order using sign language. Cynthia Walker, 20, was able to order her Chick-fil-A meal using sign language for the first time, an interaction that left her mother, Terri Buelman, so surprised and moved that she posted a video of the order on social media, according to KTRK.
The cashier, Taylor Anez, a high school senior, said she learned sign language to interact with her deaf relatives. Buelman said that the interaction with Anez was the first time that Walker was able to order something without the discomfort of feeling like people were staring at her.
After Anez and Walker's interaction gained attention on social media, her family set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money for Walker to get a hearing service dog.
Not all recent fast food orders have been positive for those who are hearing impaired. A woman in New Jersey sued Taco Bell in July for what she said was discrimination when she tried to order two tacos through the drive-thru, according to The Associated Press.
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Gina Cirrincione says in her suit that in January she had written her order on a slip of paper and given it to the employee who was at the drive-thru window. The employee told her she needed to place her order at the start of the drive-thru and to come inside the restaurant next time.
Deaf people can't use Taco Bell's drive-thru system because it requires people to speak and hear to place their orders. The suit claims this is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A representative for Taco Bell said in a statement that the chain has a "fundamental policy to respect all of our customers and employees, and we are committed to maintaining an environment free of discrimination or harassment."