Helen Keller National Center Partners With Greyhealth and Chef Marc Forgione on Phone-Free Dining

‘ReConnect’ campaign promotes a return to personal communication.

Online PR News – 03-November-2017 – Sands Point/NY – Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults (HKNC), a division of Helen Keller Services (HKS), Greyhealth Group and celebrity chef Marc Forgione recently joined forces to launch ReConnect, a phone-free dining movement that they hope will encourage patrons across the country to put down their cell phones while dining out. A recent evening at Restaurant Marc Forgione in Tribeca saw customers in the bar and dining areas voluntarily disconnect from their devices — with the help of InCharged cell phone charging stations and Yondr cell phone locking cases —and re-connect with their dining companions without the intrusion of technology.

“It was a fascinating experiment and enlightening experience,” observed HKNC Executive Director Susan Ruzenski, whose agency is celebrating its 50th year of providing comprehensive vocational and independent living training on a national level to youths and adults who are deaf-blind. “Patrons appeared more engaged than on other nights, taking time to really enjoy the ambiance, the meal, and their companions.”

Chef Forgione agreed. “We forget how lucky we are to have the natural ability to hear and see things, so it’s a shame we think we need our phones to enjoy the experiences we could be having. I'm proud to partner with HKNC in this experiment to encourage guests to enhance their dining experience by going phone-free."

The ReConnect campaign originated with Greyhealth Group (ghg), a 30-year pro bono supporter of HKNC. Earlier this year ghg designed the 2017 Deaf-Blind Awareness Week poster for HKNC around the theme, The Power of Touch, emphasizing that the culture of touch remains a pivotal value and way of life among people in the deaf-blind community.

“In a world focused on the digital, the campaign reminded us all of the importance of the tactile and the tangible,” explained Ruzenski.

While Tactile American Sign Language (TASL) continues to serve as the predominant sign language of deaf-blind individuals in the United States, recent years have seen an overwhelming embrace of touch signals — visual, social and environmental feedback given in real-time through touch on the body.

As an extension of The Power of Touch theme, ghg also devised and orchestrated a viral video campaign that saw comedian Anthony Apruzzese and Adrianna Reali, an instructor in HKNC’s Communication Learning Center, prank people in New York City by supposedly demonstrating a walking stick that attaches to a smartphone so that pedestrians can remain focused on their phones while not having to worry about walking into walls, cars, or other people. According to ghg Executive Vice President Gary Scheiner, the video demonstrated through humor how the world has become so dependent on technology.

“All of our creative this year for HKNC, including the video and recent ReConnect restaurant campaign, has shared the theme that technology is not a substitute for human connection,” Scheiner remarked. “HKNC has spent 50 years helping the deaf-blind community make meaningful connections in the world. It has been a pleasure and honor working with everyone at HKNC to help share the message that there is a time and place for technology, and a time and place to put it down.”

“It’s an empowering message,” concluded Ruzenski. “All of us can learn from people in the deaf-blind community and build relationships that are grounded in the moment— because the best connection will always be a human connection. We’re hopeful that other restaurateurs will follow Marc Forgione’s example and raise a hand to join the ReConnect movement.”

In addition to its training programs, HKNC offers support and learning opportunities to professionals and family members, and maintains a National Registry of Persons who are Deaf-Blind. The Center partners with other agencies across the United States to build their capacity to work with individuals who are deaf-blind. More information on HKNC is available by visiting www.helenkeller.org/hknc.

To learn about Restaurant Marc Forgione, located at 134 Reade Street in Manhattan, visit www.marcforgione.com.

Information on Greyhealth Group is available at www.ghgroup.com.

Information on InCharged, leaders in mobile charging technology, is available at www.incharged.com.

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