Take, for example, the time I was flying to Los Angeles to be interviewed for HearingLikeMe. While waiting for a connecting flight from Chicago to L.A., I was waiting at the departure gate, deep into writing a chapter for a book. I looked at my watch and realized I didn’t have much time left to board. Everyone around me was sitting down, however, and no one had lined up. I went to the desk to find out if the flight was delayed. “Oh, your gate was changed,” said the airline representative. Evidently, they had announced the gate change while I was sitting there, but I hadn’t heard it.
When she told me where I could find my new departure gate I looked at my watch and knew I had only one option. I ran.
By the time I made it to the gate, the ticketing agent had just closed the door, and told me apologetically that it was too late for me to board. Fortunately, the airline was able to find me a seat on the next flight out, and I made it to my destination in time for the interview. Crisis averted.
In addition to air travel, I frequently hit the road by van, sometimes with three kids and a husband in tow–all of whom are all either deaf or hard of hearing. As you can imagine, we know a thing or two about the challenges of smoothly transitioning from point A to point B with hearing loss. Here are a few tricks I have learned over the years that may help you make your next trip without incident.
In all my years of traveling, I have found fellow travelers are quite willing to lend a hand with requests for assistance while traveling. Occasionally, I’ve run into some challenges here and there. For instance, I once took my family on a zip line adventure and we encountered an instructor who was very uncomfortable instructing a deaf family. He took extra pains to single us out during the class instruction and held our group last “to ensure our safety,” despite our demonstration that we understood all the instructions and could safely zip line with the rest of them. He finally relaxed halfway through the process and we ended up enjoying the adventure.
If you’re planning an outing that involves a guided tour, presentation, workshop, concert, etc., call ahead to arrange for real-time captioning or interpreters. Know and understand the law regarding communication access in the area you’re traveling.
In some situations, you may have to be innovative. For example, while traveling out of state to a banquet for a barefoot tournament, I arranged for two volunteers from a local interpreting program to provide interpreting services. In other situations, I’ve had volunteers summarize and type what’s being said. Please note, however, that I’m not advocating these solutions in place of the accommodations that are required by law, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
[stextbox id=”black” float=”true” align=”right” width=”400″]
“That desk clerk that doesn’t know what an ADA Hotel Kit is? Well, after talking to me, they’ll probably never forget!”
Whenever I see an opportunity to improve travel accommodations for the next trip or the next deaf and hard-of-hearing traveler, I use that time to advocate and teach others. Once on a trip to the arch in St. Louis, we found no captioning for the educational videos throughout the exhibit. I informed the staff at the guest desk, and wrote a letter upon my return home. I received a letter in return, indicating they would provide captioning for their videos.
Tina Childress, an educational audiologist from Illinois who is deaf, turns every trip into a teachable moment. “That desk clerk that doesn’t know what an ADA Hotel Kit is? she asks. “Well, after talking to me, they’ll probably never forget!”
Like Childress, I believe we all have a role in helping to improve accommodations for ourselves, as well as other deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers. After all, who better understands what we need? My experiences on the road, on the tracks, and in the air have taught me that, sometimes, all we have to do is ask.