air travel survey of people with hearing loss
People with hearing loss would like to see improvements in
communications access in
the air travel industry.
to the Northern Virginia Resources Center for this article
NVRC, Cheryl Heppner
of our e-mail news readers is now working for United Airlines.
She asked what deaf and hard of hearing people would most like to
see improved, and last week many of you shared your wish lists.
Here's what you told us:
IN THE TERMINAL
text displays of all announcements (this was the top request).
"Domestic flight gates that are used for several flights are
totally confusing now. When
flying by myself I literally hover around the desk when it gets close to
boarding time. International flights that have one gate set aside are
not so scary. But it's
awful when everyone else suddenly stampedes for the phones and you have
no idea what is going on. How about setting aside a row of seats (for
people with disabilities) that face the desk at the gate so we can watch
the staff for clues and the visual displays when they get them?
It would help the staff to remember that they have a passenger
who cannot hear what's going on. Some
gates used to do that but stopped and it's sometimes hard to find a seat
close enough to watch."
"I was in the airport one time when they were offering free trips
for anyone wishing to take a later flight. I missed out because I could
"Add text displays at ALL the counters
[for boarding announcements]. I was waiting in a long line while
it was real crowded, and the agent talked or made some announcements to
the passengers to cut off the line. I didn't know what flight nbr they
asked for. It was a hassle
with many wild guessings."
"I am a frequent traveler (I am on the road at least 50% of the
time). I have learned to
fend for myself because the needs of the deaf just don't seem to sink in
with the airlines. Gate
announcements are terrible, visible displays would definitely help. Also, when I was in Portland, Oregon a few weeks ago (San
Diego has this too) there is a visible pager - instead of the garbled
spoken announcements you see the name of the person being paged on a
display with instructions of what/where they are supposed to
"Depending on how often deaf people travel they may or may not know
the routine for checking in. The
law requires a little routine "did you pack your bags, have your
bags been with you at all times .... etc."
Since it is rote it is harder to follow than normal speech.
It took me a long time and a lot of times of feeling like an
idiot before I finally figured out what they were saying to me!
If the airlines had a card or a visual cue for deaf people it
"I would like to see the sign display above from the gate door to
make announcement which seating numbers are next.
I had a problem with the announcement for seating numbers in the
past - I couldn't hear the announcement about seating numbers and I went
ahead to give my ticket to person but he or she told me to wait until
the seating numbers were called. I
have to 'peek' on any passenger's ticket to see which seating number
they had and follow them. Or
I try to board when there are less passengers."
televisions in the airport and on the plane should be showing captions
for everything. All inflight movies should be captioned.
"If the airlines still refuse to have captions for their inflight
entertainment how about the check-in desk lending us little TV/VCR units
with captioned videos (or something similar) to use on the plane or even
a nice selection of new magazines or newspapers?"
need to make more TTYs available. Phones in the airplane should also be
TTY compatible and a TTY should be available. Better signs to make it
easier to locate the TTYs.
"The midfield terminal (at Dulles) that United uses now has TTYs
all over the place which is nice but they are positioned so you have to
get down on your knees to use them.
This seems to happen all the time - do these businesses think
every TTY user is in a wheelchair?
It would be nice to have more thought used in positioning the
TTYs and maybe including a chair or stool.
Then of course all the hearing people would want to use that
phone too - sigh.."
"More public phones equipped with TTY's would be a big help, both
to those of us who need to call the hearing impaired and to the hearing
"Signs should be placed high enough to be read above/beyond other
people (rather than at eye level), large enough to be read by even those
with some visual impairment and in block letters against contrasting
displays that would give instructions during flight emergencies.
"It would also help if airlines realizing they have a deaf person
not assign them to emergency rows - they make an announcement on board
about who can sit in those aisles, deaf or disability is not mentioned
but I think it is obvious deaf people should not sit in that row. In an emergency we would not be able to follow instructions
(I am not questioning our intelligence, rather our ability to understand
spoken language during such situations.
Much as I like the space in an emergency aisle I will not allow
myself to be seated there."
displays of some kind that would make it possible to read what the pilot
or other flight staff announce throughout the flight.
the staff familiar with "Effective Communication with Hard of
Hearing and Deaf People" (fact sheets available at NVRC).
"My feelings/wishes about Airline Access are the same as for
trains, buses, convention centers, etc.
Audio (PA) Announcements in large, public areas such as terminals
are usually very hard to understand, even for me and I'm not considered
hearing impaired. I find
text displays of information VERY helpful and more available when I need
them than verbal announcements." They should be placed high enough
to be read above/beyond other people (rather than at eye level), large
enough to be read by even those with some visual impairment and in block
letters against contrasting backgrounds.
you, Joan Cassidy, Cynthia Clark, Oz Crosby, Blaise Delahoussaye, Brenda
Estes, Kristine Fisk, Alan Hart, Jon, Anne Kramer, Hilary Relton, and
Following the publication of this article in the HOH-LD-News, one reader
replied that we should also mention the airline shuttles. Some form of
textual communication would alleviate the anxiety of not being able to
understand the announcements regarding where to get off.