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TALKING MENUS ARE BREAKING BARRIERS

FSR Magazine The idea for talking menus came from practical experience. In 2006, Susan Perry went to dinner at an Olive Garden with her niece who was suffering vision loss from juvenile macular degeneration. Perry had forgotten her reading glasses, and the two were stuck at a table with no way to read the menu. “It got me thinking,” she says. Thus came Menus That Talk, which is just what it sounds like: menus that read aloud to diners. The menus, housed on a custom-built Android tablet, also speak in various languages, allowing restaurants to break barriers that are caused by both language and disabilities. Perry says the tablets have practical implications for restaurants: Tablet makers report diners will spend more when ordering electronically, unable to resist tempting dessert images or indulging on appetizers. In addition, Menus That Talk tablets, connected to back-of-house POS systems, can also help expedite service and increase efficiency. But more fundamentally, they help to promote a spirit of inclusion. “So many companies just don’t get that we are a diverse group of people,” says Perry, president and CEO of Menus That Talk. “We don’t all speak English. We don’t all read well.” Even when customers browse the menu in different languages, all orders are delivered to the kitchen in English. The $150 tablets are designed to survive a spill or a drop from the tabletop. Servers can pass the devices out like menus, or they can be attached to the table. Perry says the tablets can be customized with pictures of menu items and be programmed to include games for customers—so even those without...

SOUTH MIAMI HOSPITAL PILOT TESTING MENUS THAT TALK

South Miami Hospital is conducting a pilot program that provides patients with a hand-held wireless device that enables them to order meals in English, Spanish or French developed by a South Florida technology company, Taylannas. The unit speaks to patients and displays text in their chosen language and is designed to serve visually impaired, elderly, and non English-speaking patients. “Being able to hear choices described in your own language, instead of struggling to read a menu, makes a huge difference in a person’s hospital stay,” said  Susan Perry, inventor of Menus That Talk and president of Taylannas.  “The complex changes underway in healthcare underscore the importance of patient satisfaction, an ongoing goal in the Baptist Health system known for its innovative approaches to quality patient care.” Perry developed the original Menus That Talk as an aid to a close relative with an advanced case of Stargardt disease, a form of macular degeneration that severely limits vision. The hospital version truly crosses language barriers, she said. “Regardless of what language the patient orders in, the food choices will appear in English in the kitchen, eliminating the potential for mistakes or misunderstanding. In the future, we can add any other language as the patient population changes.” For hospitals, the use of a talking menu reduces printing expenses and staff costs. The  technology developed with the advice of Dietary Management at South Miami Hospital also allows for nearly instant changes in menu content and can provide dieticians with greater control to fine-tune each patient’s nutrition, Perry said. Menus That Talk is one of a number of interactive voice information systems Taylannas created...

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