Travelling With Hearing Loss, and Now Face Masks – Pt. 2

Sam July 1, 2021

In our last blog post, we addressed what steps people who experience hearing loss can take to make travel more comfortable. Let’s now take a look at what airline staff can do to assist hearing-impaired people while traveling. 

1. CLEAR FACE MASKS

International travel signifies fun, exploration, rest, and relaxation for most people. Those with hearing loss experience both excitement and trepidation, and navigating new and unpredictable listening situations isn’t always easy. Face masks have complicated the situation even further, since those with hearing loss rely heavily on facial expressions, non-verbal cues, and sign language to comprehend people. By encouraging airline staff to wear clear masks, this problem will decrease to some degree.

2. TRAIN AIRCREW IN SIGN LANGUAGE

Another step to making travel more inclusive is by adding sign language to the list of languages that aircrew can converse in.

3. VISUAL CUES

It’s a good idea for airlines to provide visual cues – for instance, tablets with important boarding/disembarking/emergency instructions and menus (please don’t just say, “Chicken or pasta”) – so that passengers with hearing issues feel safe and at ease throughout the journey.

The correct disability service

When we reserve online, there is a space to note a disability and the kinds of services offered. Why, then, is someone who checks "Deaf and Hard of Hearing" offered a wheelchair? Airlines should ask people with hearing loss to specify what kind of services they would need beforehand.

Pre-boarding the plane

Air carriers should provide electronic displays that will tell a person with hearing loss what zone is boarding, as well as information about upgrades and standby status. A gate attendant shouldn’t just tell a person to go sit until their zone is called. This is against the Air Carrier Access Act, when someone identifies themselves as a person with hearing loss, the gate attendant must provide equal access to the boarding announcements, even if that means coming over to where the passenger is sitting to repeat the announcement. Better still, passengers with hearing loss should be offered pre-boarding.

Captioned safety announcements (and movies!)

Airlines should live-caption important information on the screens right in front of a passenger with hearing loss. Oh and movies as well!

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