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ASL Food Handler Course Helps Deaf and Hard of Hearing People Get Their Food Handler Card

StateFoodSafety offers the only online food handler course in ASL in the industry.

Typically, if you are deaf or hard of hearing and want to get your food handlers card online, you have one option: turning on the subtitles.

But for StateFoodSafety, subtitles weren’t good enough. In 2012, we decided we could do more to make working in the foodservice industry easier for people in the deaf community.

“There are lots of deaf people and hard of hearing people in the foodservice industry,” said Emilee Follett, vice president of product development. “We felt this group of people was underserved, and we wanted to do something to acknowledge them.”

She added, “Nothing in the foodservice industry requires hearing. With the right training, a deaf food handler can be just as successful as a hearing food handler.”

The ASL course option is nationally accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The course sets StateFoodSafety apart from other food safety training providers, allowing us to better meet the needs of food handlers, industry clients, and regulatory partners.

“Nobody else offers an online course in ASL,” Emilee said. “Reading subtitles just isn’t the same as watching the course in ASL. This is a significant upgrade for food workers in the deaf community, who now have an online option to get their food handler card.”

Creating a course in American Sign Language presented a unique challenge. Because of its unique structure, there were no direct translations for some important vocabulary terms, including “food handler” and “cross-contamination,” in sign language.

“ASL is not just English with hand signs,” Emilee said. “It’s its own language, with its own grammar.”

As a result, StateFoodSafety coined new phrases in ASL for any term that didn’t already have an accepted sign. For example, a brand-new sign for “food handler” was created by combining existing signs that together translate roughly to mean, “a person who controls or manipulates food.”

After months of hard work, the ASL course was released to the public in early 2013.

Emilee learned a lot while creating the course, and she enjoyed every minute.

“I loved it,” she said. “It was such a cool entrée into a world that I didn’t know anything about really.”

The course has had the intended effect. Kurt Alan Ramborger is a deaf chef who’s worked in the kitchen for 26 years and is known as the Irish Chef within the deaf community. Whenever his food handler card is up for renewal, his first choice is taking a class in ASL.

However, finding an ASL food handler course can be difficult because not every state offers a food handler class in ASL. That’s why Kurt was so excited to find StateFoodSafety’s online ASL course last year. He posted an enthusiastic video review of the course on February 27, 2018.

The video description reads, “Kudos to StateFoodSafety for install(ing) ASL on food handle(r) permit certification (training) to take (the) test! Much easier and better than (reading the) English language … for deaf peeps!”

Kurt added in a separate interview, “Your ASL program (is) great for many deaf people who don’t have a good (grasp of) English grammar.”

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