One night, Amy Barnes witnessed a child’s death at the hands of a drunk driver.
“It broke my heart to watch basically a… 4-year-old child die,” she said. “That did not need to happen.”
So she took a job as an Uber driver to “drive at night hopefully to save drunk people’s lives.”
And she’s good at it. Barnes has a 4.84 rating with Uber, “which is good enough that I get VIP rides all the time.” But she’s far from your typical driver.
“I am a deaf and hard of hearing Uber driver,” she said.
Because of this, it’s sometimes a struggle for Barnes to understand her passengers. “So it might happen sometimes, you may say the same thing three times, four times, and I’m not hearing,” she said. “So when they’re on their fourth time, they start yelling, and I can’t do anything about it.”
“Passenger communication with the deaf and hard of hearing I would say is the biggest obstacle,” she added.
Barnes’ hearing loss is “right in the range where people speak.” She was raised orally, meaning that she was encouraged to listen to recordings of her own voice, then learn to speak proper English from that. While she can talk normally, her voice doesn’t sound like a typical hearing person’s voice. And that has an unfortunate side effect.
“To be honest, people believe all the time that I’m drunk, so I’m forever basically always having to say, ‘I’m not drunk,'” she said. “But Uber, they know, they know that the deaf and hard of hearing, they sometimes have problems with the voice.”
Uber’s understanding of her situation is one of many reasons why Barnes loves her job.
“Driving for Uber is one of the very few jobs that I can do and truly feel free to be myself,” she said.
And she has a message for people who don’t believe that deaf and hard of hearing drivers can do a good job:
“The deaf people, they have a very hard time applying for work. So I ask that we be accepted into society just the same as speaking people, because we’re not deaf and dumb. We can do the job. We just want to live.”