The sound of the alarm clock buzzing to wake you out of your slumber. Blaring car horns warning each other of their poor decisions. The trill of the subway train announcing its arrival at the platform. The roar of the plane’s engines as it’s lifted off the runway. The absence of the sound of a foreign tongue speaking reverently at a church mass. The silence of waves receding back into the loving arms of mother ocean. The movement of lips mouthing beautiful sonatas that will never be heard.
These are all things that we take for granted or never notice at all. We expect to get up each day totally unaffected by any change to our world-view. We’d like to believe that we are the masters of our own fate and that we control what happens to us from day to day. But what if something happened beyond our control? What if life’s plans suddenly went awry? What if we were no longer able to hear the words coming from a child who just skinned her knee? Or the sweet words coming from our lover’s heart? Just coming to terms with such a life changing event would be one of the strongest tests any of us could face.
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cherie King (no relation), a hearing impaired writer who runs the travel blog, Flight of the Travel Bee.
Thank you for agreeing to talk with me about something that is rarely discussed, the hearing impaired or deaf traveler.
As a hearing impaired/deaf blogger, do you see the internet as the great equalizer? Does it put the hearing able and the hearing disabled on equal footing or are there still issues (other than the obvious) that you face that we should be aware of?
Honestly- I am on the fence. There are still many issues that are not known to the public, for an example Captions. On Hulu.com or Netflix, they offer a wide variety of movies and televisions shows, however, only a select few have Closed Captioning. Even though we do have TTY, and VRS (Video Relay Service) much more available to the Deaf community now; not to mention Social Media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. We still have a long way to go.
What has been the most challenging aspect of being a deaf traveler? If you had the power to correct it, what would you do?
Traveling into foreign countries is often difficult because services for the Deaf are not really accessible. For an example, what if an alarm in a hotel room went off? How would a Deaf person be able to know that someone was knocking on the door? There are devices that allow the Deaf to be in the loop- flashing lights, motion sensors, etc. They can easily be installed in hotel rooms, airports, and so on. TTY is not really available either; even if they were available they do not allow international calls. I find it important that people be aware of these issues and what they can do to solve them. If I had the power- I would make hotel rooms, airports, etc much more accessible for the Deaf.
I was wondering, when did you first get bit by the travel bug?
Well, I was born in Hawaii; so one of my first memories was flying over the big blue ocean into California. Ever since then I have been traveling across the United States and abroad. I guess you can say I got the travel bug at a very early age.
What can the hospitality industry do to make traveling more enjoyable for you? Or do you feel that you do not need any special dispensation?
As I previously mentioned- if there was more accessibility for the Deaf it would make it easier to travel. I would love to be able to use TTY, or use my Iphone overseas without having to worry about the roaming charges. Any of the apps I use for communicating with my family and friends back home take up a lot of data, which burns up the international minutes. If there was a set plan for the Deaf, where they can travel internationally and be under a set international plan, it would help the Deaf communicate much more efficiently.
Do you meet other hearing impaired travelers (vs. tourists) on the road? If so, what has been their experience?
Many of my deaf friends love to travel, but they do experience difficulty as I do. With our love for travel, we are willing to put up with the difficulties.
Are there international services available to deaf travelers that could assist them while they are in foreign countries? If not, do you think one is needed?
There are hardly any international services available for Deaf travelers. In most of the guide books I’ve read, as well as the web, I have yet to find a reliable source where I could find all the information I need to travel with my disability. How do I contact the embassy if I need to? There are no TTY numbers available, and with the roaming charges racking up on my phone- how can I contact them? What if my Hearing Aid or Cochlear Implant breaks? How can I fix them? These are questions I worry about, as well as every Deaf Traveler out there. The lack of the information made me decide to create my own website, flightofthetravelbee.com; in which I speak about my experiences as a Deaf Traveler.
What special tools or equipment do you require while traveling that a hearing able traveler would not?
Oh gosh- the list goes on. I need to bring enough amounts of Hearing aid batteries, to make sure that I have extra parts for my Hearing aid in case it breaks and I am not able to get it fixed internationally. I learned that last one the hard way in Austria. Waterproof case for my hearing aid- mine are not waterproof, so if I want to swim, I actually have to take my hearing aid out and put them in a box and leave them on shore; it is very inconvenient.
Where is your favorite place in the world……thus far? Why?
My favorite place in the world so far has to be England. I absolutely fell in love with England when I visited a couple years ago, the history, the language, the culture; everything about it was so charming and really appealed to me. I cannot wait for my next visit and I hope to live there someday.
Is there a place that you have promised to never visit again? Why?
Oh gosh- my visit at the Vatican City was a nightmare. Even though I crossed off seeing the Sistine Chapel off my bucket list, it is one of the places that I don’t think I will want to go to again. I endured a 3-4 hour line in the hot Italian sun, in the blistering heat, it was crowded. I felt claustrophobic and stuck and people were just standing within an inch of my face asking me for money. Once I finally got into the Vatican, I endured more crowds, and I barely got to enjoy the Sistine Chapel, I had to be ushered out within five minutes. I couldn’t stand there in awe of one of the most famous paintings in the world. I wish I had more time to see it, considering the fact I waited several hours in the hot sun.
Where to next?
My next adventure is an exciting one- I will be traveling abroad with Semester at Sea in January. 11 countries for 3-4 months on a cruise ship around the world; it’s basically a “floating campus” I will be visiting Brazil, India, China, Japan, some parts of Africa, and several other countries as well.
Wow, that does sound exciting! Be sure to send me a postcard! Cherie, thank you so much for shedding some much needed light on this subject. It is my fervent hope that the travel industry will take heed to these issues and enact measures to facilitate solutions. It would be a definite move in the right direction for all concerned.
Cherie King was born deaf but never saw it as a reason to be discouraged from traveling because she absolutely adores it. Despite her difficulties as a deaf traveler (and maybe because of it), she decided to start a travel blog, The Travel Bee in order to enlighten others about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and what obstacles they face during their travels. Ever positive, her motto is: “Let’s break down those language barriers!”