Mark Medina Jr. gives his passenger the familiar fist bump that Lyft drivers give their riders upon entering his car, but virtually nothing is said because rider Heath Conway is deaf.
Instead of the congenial conversation that is the hallmark of the ride-sharing service, Medina uses sign language to communicate.
“Deaf people are just like you and I,” Medina said. “They have jobs, they have friends, they go to school."
But Heath is more than just a passenger. He’s being trained by Medina to be a Lyft driver. As a founding driver in the Modesto area, he screens and trains new drivers. The interpreter and sign language instructor took things farther by offering to train deaf drivers like Conway.
“I’m human just like you. The only thing that doesn’t work is my ears,” Conway said, through his sign language.
Conway is excited about the prospects of earning a living by getting out and about.
“I like going out to see afferent places and really having an all around fun time. I don’t like being idle and bored,” Conway said.
Conway says being deaf allows him to focus better behind the wheel. As for communicating with his passengers, which is an asset for Lyft, Conway says he’ll be equipped with pencil and paper and with text messaging on his phone.
Medina is training Conway how to use the Lyft app to hook up with riders via GPS and receiving payment on line.
“People would be pretty fortunate to have a Lyft ride with a deaf driver,” Medina, who feels connected to the deaf community, told FOX40. “It’s good exposure for the hearing and the deaf community, to bridge the gaps between the two, to not be too scared, not to be timid."
And Conway can’t wait to get started.
“You’re able to meet new friends, you’re able to learn the area you lie in, I mean the reasons are endless,” he said.