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. In doing so, we discovered a common thread: Small or large, all companies genuinely want to be deaf-friendly, they simply lack the tools or knowledge to do so.

Meet Our Team



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, a consumer review website for the Deaf community. It’s 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.

In addition, as 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, at the present time, has taken on (and won) over 400 cases dealing with discrimination within healthcare, employment, voting, housing, and more. She also won the Marilyn J. Smith Inspiration Award in 2015. 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.


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. As a matter of fact, 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. Significantly,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. Even more, she earned her MA in School Counseling (Gallaudet University) and BA in Sociology (Stephen F. Austin State University).


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. Undeniably, a natural leader, Berman is a board member for American Society of Deaf Children and authored “Zoey Goes,” an education book for Deaf children.

To enumerate, Rachel’s received 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.


No stranger to non-profits and teaching. Without reservation, Lisa Hermatz brings a unique blended background to the deaffriendly Consulting team. As the co-founder and executive director of KODAWest Camp, Lisa was undoubtedly 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.


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.


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.