New Restaurant Technology Aids People With Disabilities

Posted: Monday, March 23, 2015 6:00 am
By Jena Sauber St. Joseph News-Press

Previously, going through any restaurant drive-thru was a multi-step process for St. Joseph resident De Linda Kelly.
“For myself, I am deaf, so when I went through the drive-thru at any restaurant, I always have to stop at the intercom and wait a few seconds,” Ms. Kelly said. “And then I have to drive forward to the window with a piece of paper and a pen and write back and forth what I want.”
Now, one restaurant in St. Joseph has made that process easier.
In an attempt to streamline the drive-thru process for both customers and employees, the Subway franchise at 4514 S.E. Highway 169 recently replaced its drive-thru speaker with a touch-screen system.
The new system can be particularly helpful for people with disabilities, said Ms. Kelly, director of communications and transition services at MERIL.
“It’s not just that it helps with deaf or hard of hearing people, but also with people who have speech difficulties, for example, someone that might have cleft pallet or throat cancer,” she said.
The reception has been mostly positive so far, said Alyson Thompson, senior regional manager with Subway.
“Many customers really like it,” she said. “Some of the regulars were a little bit hesitant to how it works because it could be a little overwhelming from a technology standpoint, but most people really like it.”
After she knew how to use it, the ordering process took her less than a minute, Ms. Kelly said. The system allows customers to choose from regular sandwich options or create their own sandwich, as well as add chips, drinks or cookies.
Users also can pay for their purchase at the machine. The system can record a customer’s previous purchases and offer prompts, which can expedite the process.
If the new technology is successful, a
touch-screen system may be installed at an additional drive-thru location in town, Ms. Thompson said. Currently, three Subway locations in St. Joseph have a drive-thru, including one double lane with a design that would be unable to incorporate touch screens, Ms. Thompson said.
“It was really cool,” Ms. Kelly said of the new technology. “The services that Subway is providing, I don’t think they realize how much more accessible that touch screen is for people with disabilities.”

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