Webby for Good is a collaborative program formed by The Webby Awards and WP Engine to showcase Webby-recognized projects built to change the world.

Describe your Webby-nominated project. What’s the elevator pitch?

A staggering 70% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people are either unemployed or underemployed. We wanted to #StartAConversation between our riders and our Deaf driver partners so we built a tool that teaches riders simple phrases and even how to finger spell their own name in American Sign Language.

Why this particular cause as the subject of your project/campaign? Was there a moment that inspired it?

When we heard that 70% number we were shocked. Fortunately, we knew that Deaf people were driving and earning on the Uber platform all over the world. And we wanted to make sure they had the same Uber experience as everyone else. So we looked at our own trip experiences for inspiration. Personally, we'd had a fair amount of Deaf drivers in SF, and we always felt bad that we didn't know how to sign our first name, or even say hello, thank you, or goodbye. We realized we could build a simple tool to help both riders and drivers have a richer, more connected, more friendly ride experience.

What concerns were there about pursuing this idea? How did you get past them?

Teaching a new language can be intimidating. We wanted to make the experience as simple and fun as possible so that it would feel easier and more approachable for our riders. To do this, we used bright colors and smiling models. But we also wanted the language to be authentic. After all, everything from the angle of the fingers to the curvature of the wrist denoted legitimacy to Deaf sign language speakers. We worked closely with a team of Deaf non-profit partners and Deaf models to ensure that we were creating an experience that felt legitimate and useful to everyone.

What was the most rewarding aspect of working on your project? What did you learn in the process that you didn't know/expect going into it?

Knowing that we could make somebody's day with a simple gesture was a great result. Every Uber trip in 600+ cities all over the world starts the same way. A rider opens the door and says his or her name. The driver confirms the name, and they're off. Only that's not how it starts if the driver is Deaf. For them, things can be more awkward because the rider generally doesn't know how to communicate in sign language. We wanted to enrich the ride experience and help connect people by starting a conversation.

What real-world impact were you hoping to make with this project? Did the real-world impact meet your expectations?

The real-world impact was really nice to see. We heard from so many Deaf partners who were thankful that we had built tools to give them a better experience. Likewise, riders were thankful that we had given them the ability to say thanks and interact with their drivers because they had always wanted to, but just didn't know how. We also saw dozens of national articles that praised the initiative as a bright moment and a step in the right direction during a tough time for the brand.

Did your team have a specific “breakthrough” or “a-ha” moment while formulating or executing this project?

When an Uber rider is matched with a Deaf driver partner they get a notification so that they know that if they need to communicate they'll need to text rather than call, etc. And, we realized that riders generally had a few minutes of waiting for their Uber to arrive, so we thought that this couple minutes would be the perfect time to teach them how to sign their name and start a conversation.

Was the tech/medium you chose crucial to conveying your message? If so, why?

Yes. The medium was important because we live in a mobile world. People live on their phones, they get around with their phones—and now, they even make a living with them. For Uber Sign Language we built a mobile experience that was easy to use on-the-go while people were waiting a couple minutes for their Uber to arrive.

What was the most significant challenge that arose during your work on this?

We wanted to announce at a national Deaf conference alongside a non-profit partner and be ready for a public launch during Deaf Awareness Week so we needed to work quickly to sell through ideas and secure budget from various internal stakeholders. Fortunately, the idea was simple and strong and the deck we made really captured the spirit in a way that made it easy for people to support and get excited about.

How will you use technology in future work to create inspiring, cutting-edge projects that also make a difference in people’s lives?

Every day, millions of people use Uber to make money, pay for school, get to doctors appointments, job interviews, commute to work—or a billion other things. We're humbled to know that we've become an important part of people's daily lives and so we always are thinking about how we can respectfully use technology to help people to get where they want to go—either physically or financially. The Take Me Home feature on Uber Freight is another great example of using technology to help bring families together.

Credits

  • VP Marketing Kellyn Kenny Uber
  • Executive Creative Director Paulie Dery Uber
  • ACD, Art Lee Riley Uber
  • ACD, Copy Adam Starr Uber
  • Designer Amber Xu Uber
  • Motion Designer Joel Bowers Uber
  • Senior Marketing Strategy Manager Angela Vasconcellos Uber
  • Marketing Strategist Sam Tift Uber
  • Head of Rider Marketing Strategy Jasmine Summerset Uber
  • Program Manager Lia Alberti Uber
  • Group Design Engineering Manager Christian Rauh Uber
  • Senior Product Designer Mark Junkunc Uber
  • Production Partner Left Field Labs Los Angeles

About the Public Service & Activism category

Mobile sites and apps facilitating political change, social movement, human rights, public education and reform, or revolution.