Lisa Langdon's 'speaking hands' connect with customer - United Hub
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Lisa Langdon's 'speaking hands' connect with customer

By Matt Adams

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Customer Service Representative Lisa Langdon's first language might surprise most people. Born to two deaf parents, she learned American Sign Language before she was able to speak, a skill that still plays an important role in her life and career to this day.

"When I worked at Sioux Falls, we had a frequent flyer who was deaf," Lisa said. "Because I'm fluent in sign language, I was able to help her many times. I actually saw her in Seattle recently, and she was struggling to converse with a gate agent. When I walked over, she was so happy to see me."

Lisa paints a vivid picture of the frustration deaf or hearing-impaired people feel when they want to be heard but are unable to carry on critical conversations with the people around them. So, it's no surprise that she can recall several similar stories of customers who were relieved to learn that she understands sign language.

One interaction in particular stands out. Earlier this year, the father of a deaf son and daughter posted a video to Twitter. It was of Lisa signing with his young son in a busy concourse at SeaTac. "I saw the mom signing to the little boy, so I walked over and signed, 'Are you deaf?' The mom said, 'No, but my son is.'" Lisa began signing with him, and watched as the boy lit up with excitement at having someone other than his parents to communicate with. "I was amazed — he had only known American Sign Language for about three years, but he carried on complete conversations. He was so happy to sign with someone."

Lisa, who didn't know that the video was on Twitter, smiled when remembering that day. "I probably spent 20 minutes with them, and it was the best. Those kids and that family will always be in my heart."

Lisa's experiences with deaf customers are an excellent reminder of how important her skill is to operate a truly accessible airline. "Deaf and hearing-impaired customers just want agents and crew to be aware," she said. "At the airport, there are so many announcements about things like gate changes and delays that have to be communicated. Being sensitive to that in regards to those customers is essential."

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