Our Story

We help you serve a large and fast-growing consumer demographic: the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing individuals living in the U.S. Inclusive businesses don’t just change deaf individuals’ lives. They change the world. deaffriendly takes the guesswork out of serving this little-understood consumer group, which too often encounters communication barriers with each dollar they spend.

We’ve consulted businesses with as few as a handful of employees, as well as Fortune 500 giants. We discovered a common thread: Small or large, all companies genuinely want to be deaf-friendly. But many simply lack the tools or knowledge to do so.

Meet Our Team

MEET THE LEADER: MELISSA “echo” GREENLEE – Founder and CEO

The story of how Melissa “echo” Greenlee created deaffriendly really began at age 8, when she suddenly began to lose her hearing. Losing a sense, and gaining a new language and culture, sparked a life journey. In 2012, Greenlee found her North Star: Launching deaffriendly.com, a consumer review website for the Deaf community. Through her work, she is revolutionizing how businesses interact with the estimated 48 million Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers living in the U.S. today. In early 2016, she launched deaffriendly Consulting providing training and education to U.S. businesses striving to become more inclusive to this demographic.

A laser-focused optimist, Greenlee serves as a disabilities advocate far and wide. She is on the board of Disability Rights Advocates, a non-profit disability rights law clinic, which has taken on (and won) over 400 cases dealing with discrimination within healthcare, employment, voting, housing, and more. In 2015, Greenlee won the Marilyn J. Smith Inspiration Award, an award named after the founder of the Abused Deaf Woman Advocacy Services to honor visionary, mission-driven, and collaborative individuals who have made a significant impact on the Deaf Community.

CONNECT WITH: SOCORRO GARCIA – Community Outreach Manager

Socorro amplifies deaffriendly’s mission by forging new and enduring ties between hearing businesses and Deaf and Hard of Hearing consumers. Nationally, she galvanized numerous high-impact deaffriendly customer service training opportunities — most notably, including our partnerships with many hospitality and retail businesses for multiple National Association of the Deaf conferences. As a result of Socorro’s outreach efforts, over 1,500+ professionals have received our customer serving training.

A D.C. transplant who now calls Los Angeles home, Socorro builds a deaf-friendly ecosystem wherever she goes. A self-described Xicana, she is devoted to community-based advocacy: She co-founded Alma de Muxeristas, and completed several terms serving on the Board of Council de Manos and Deaf Women United. She is currently a graduate student in Chicanx Studies at CSUN Northridge.

GET TO KNOW: VICKI MOSELEY Trainer

Long before taking on her current role training businesses to forge stronger relationships with Deaf customers, Vicki was charting unheard-of territory by helping companies develop more inclusive, less isolating workplaces for their Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees. This was her mission when she founded Communication Works! in 2006. 

As our Customer Service trainer, Vicki shows businesses why understanding and investing in us, the customers, is a win-win. Her favorite thing? Creating customized training for targeted audiences. Vicki also brings a wealth of counseling experience with her: She counseled Deaf and Hard of Hearing students and the Interpreter Training Program students at Seattle Central Community college for 25 years. She earned her MA in School Counseling (Gallaudet University) and BA in Sociology (Stephen F. Austin State University).

MEET: RACHEL BERMANTrainer & ASL Teacher

Deaf since birth, Rachel is Bilingual/Bicultural in both English and ASL. She spends most of her working hours as a full-time ASL Instructor at the University of Colorado in Boulder; but occasionally hops on a plane or car to guide businesses in our Customer Service trainings and ASL classes. A natural leader, Berman is a board member for American Society of Deaf Children and authored “Zoey Goes,” an education book for Deaf children.

Rachel’s got a B.A. in Communication Sciences (University of Arizona), an M.A. in Communication Sciences (Gallaudet University), and an M.A. in Teaching American Sign Language (University of Northern Colorado) and is also working on becoming a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). All of that translates to an instinctive flair for bridging Deaf and Hard of Hearing worlds with the businesses who want to serve them better.

MEET: LISA HERMATZTrainer & ASL Teacher

No stranger to non-profits and teaching, Lisa Hermatz brings a unique blended background to the deaffriendly Consulting team. As the co-founder and executive director of KODAWest Camp, Lisa was a driving force in creating a place for Kids of Deaf Adult/s (ages 8-17) to enjoy shared experience as bicultural individuals – including workshops, mentorships, and annual camps.

An ASL instructor at Los Angeles Pierce Community College for two decades, she is also a part-time ASL instructor at Glendale Community College. In Summer 2019, we welcomed Lisa to the team to meet the growing demand for ASL classes and customer service trainings nationwide. She kicked off her first assignment at a Deaf Women United training in Tempe, AZ.

LEARN ASL WITH: JULIE FRANCIS – ASL Teacher

With a decade of experience in Deaf education and advocacy, Julie goes beyond teaching sign language. With ASL becoming an increasingly high-demand skill in the mainstream world, she teaches deaffriendly customer service training clients how, using industry-specific sign language, they can erase communication barriers for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people they engage with. 

Devoted to ASL and English bilingual multicultural education, Julie earned her Master’s Degree in Elementary Deaf Education at Gallaudet University and has since built an extensive national record of teaching teaching Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in MA, NH, VT, MD, CA, and most recently in Seattle where she was a Parent-Infant Program Specialist at Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center and holds a Washington State Residency Teacher Professional Education Permit.

GET THE WRITE STUFF WITH: AIMEE CHOUWriter

Since our 2012 launch, Aimee has crafted copy and given editorial strategy for deaffriendly’s multiple communications needs. Her journalistic and data-driven style drives the deaffriendly’s brand through authentic storytelling.

Aimee has journeyed various communications paths, ranging from education copywriting, non-profit public relations in mental health and theatre, and grant writing.

A longtime Seattleite, Aimee has a B.A. in Journalism and Business Administration from the University of Washington. A theatre aficionado, she enjoys being onstage and is completing a one-act thriller slated for a staged reading in 2020.

FEEL CONTENT WITH: CRYSTAL ROBERTSWriter

Since 2015, Crystal has been one of the friendly voices behind deaffriendly’s storytelling strategy. She provided a framework for our growing content needs – ranging from writing articles to planning editorial and social media calendars. To date, her favorite project has been running deaffriendly’s four-year anniversary content.

A Pacific Northwest native, Crystal draws creative energies from beaches, water, poetry, and caffeine. Aside from writing, she holds a diverse array of skills under her belt, including artisan furniture designer, hotline coordinator, and even being a mainstage-produced playwright (“Skin,” 2017). 

She holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College. Crystal currently resides in Washington D.C., where she is earning a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) at Gallaudet University.

MEET OUR DESIGN ICON: BUDDY ELLEDGEProgram Assistant & Graphic Designer

One of deaffriendly’s first team members, Buddy has been visionary behind our visual branding efforts since 2011. Nearly every color palette or graphic has Buddy’s uniquely timeless, classic style. He’s not just working behind-the-scenes, either: As our program assistant, his friendly persona drives our front-facing interactions, too. 

He holds a B.S. in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of California – Los Angeles. As the Principal of Buddy Elledge Designs since 2005, Buddy stays at the forefront of the fast-evolving design world. His distinctive designs are ubiquitous in numerous non-profit organizations, such as Deaf Spotlight and Hearing, Speech & Deaf Center (where he works as a full-time as marketing graphic designer) 

FUN FACT: Buddy is widely known for having the best eyebrows in the Seattle-area Deaf Community.