Deaf Awareness Week 2020 - Travel when Deaf

Updated: Jul 15

CN: travelling, deaf, top tips



This week is Deaf Awareness Week 2020 – this week I am doing a series of blog posts, each day of the week.


If you missed yesterday’s, here is a link to the blog post on being deaf during the lockdown [link]. Today’s topic is on an extremely important issue for Deaf and hard of hearing people: public transport.


Deaf and hard of hearing people often struggle with public transport, which might at first seem like a strange issue, but imagine this:


You’re on the bus, checking your phone for the route, and the driver shouts out “does anyone need this next stop?” – other passengers shout out no, but you didn’t hear the driver.


You’re going through the train station to get to the train platform and an announcement says that the train has moved platforms, but you didn’t hear the announcement so go to the original platform and wait for a train that never comes.


You are trying to work out your changed route due to a cancellation but there’s so much background noise interference in your hearing aid that you feel overwhelmed and can’t work out what to do.


These are just some of the most common issues we experience! So, what is the solution? Here are my top tips as a Deaf wheelchair user of how to go about public transport!


Buses:

1. If you are Deaf or hard of hearing, it’s very likely that you are eligible for a concessionary bus pass. This means that you don’t have to pay to use buses and may even be able to get a +1 pass, which means someone goes free with you – e.g. a PA/carer, family member or partner. Check your local council website for the criteria and how to apply [link]!

2. When getting on the bus, explain you are Deaf to the driver.

  • I personally also try and seek out a fellow passenger, telling them how is best to tell me if there’s a change to the journey/I need to be contacted.

3. Some cities in the UK have now introduced communication cards sometimes called the yellowcard or helpinghand [link] which show a message and how is best to communicate with you, e.g. “I’m Deaf, I lipread”. Contact your local council to see what your city offers!

4. If you have limited speech or are struggling to understand what others are saying, it might be useful to travel with a notepad or download a notes app on your phone to communicate with the driver/other passengers to explain that you are Deaf/where you are getting off. This way, if there are any changes or someone needs to ask/answer a question, they can also use this method!

5. There’s no rule saying you have to travel alone! If you think this is going to be too difficult for you, ask a friend, partner or family member to go with you.


Trams/metro:

1. There are differences throughout the UK depending on what the tram or metro operator’s guidance is, but many offer discounted journeys or passes for Deaf and disabled people.

2. Most platforms at tram/metro stations now have an announcement board with the next two trams/metros due to come in and any delays.

3. It is not as well advertised, but trams and metros also have assistance such as meeting at a tram stop and helping to get to the next tram, like some train stations, many metro stops do not have staff present, so it is easier to pre-book assistance for your journey. You need to contact them 4 hours before and need to search for your area’s metro or tram website but they will have a contact page to book this assistance with both an email and textphone number.

4. Many trams and metros have a travel alert system which you can sign up to receive service status updates and contains information such as if a facility isn’t available – check your local metro/tram operator’s website to find out more!

5. Many cities in the UK now have metro and tramway doors with a flashing light inside and outside; this light accompanies the “beep” to prevent any crossing of the doors when they close.


Trains:

1. Similarly, there is also a disabled person’s railcard which d/Deaf and hard of hearing people are entitled to [link] if you are in receipt of PIP, have a letter from social services confirming your level of hearing loss or a copy of the front page of your NHS battery book/dispensing prescription if you have gone done the private route.

2. Most platforms at train stations now have an announcement board with the next two trains due to come in/any delays.

3. In the stations, there are also waiting rooms and priority seating for disabled people. I find these places useful when trying to work out my journey, or if my tinnitus kicks in. As many Deaf and hard of hearing people also have conditions like Meniere’s [link] that causes spells of dizziness, this is a good solution when waiting for a train.

4. Buying tickets in the ticket office can be very hectic with the glass barrier making lip-reading difficult as well as lots of background noise – so I suggest relying upon the good ol’ internet. Now, most train lines have their own website and app where you can check the information online, purchase tickets, and some allow you to even book travel assistance at a click of a button! When getting to the station you can then use the code provided from booking online at a ticket machine which cuts out the need for going to the ticket office altogether!

5. Another great option is the travel assistance. This can often be booked online, and many have a text relay phone number – each train line has a different contact so make sure you have the right one! The assistance offered covers all disabilities, but I find it particularly helpful as the staff can tell you about any train changes as well as getting you to the right train/platform, a priority seat and getting you from the train at the other end too!

6. Information screens are also being introduced across cities, like in London, Manchester or Newcastle. They are usually located on platforms, by noticeboards, or assistance desk. They provide useful written information on either the next stop, the next train to a certain place, or change of platforms.

7. A relatively recent option that has come in is the SMS alert. This gives updates to your journeys, including if it’s running on time and will alert you by text in case of any disruption, allowing you to follow where your train is in real-time or to receive specific notifications to a route. This will usually come up as an option when booking online, or you can get more information here [link].


Planes:

1. When booking your flight, there usually is an option for special assistance – I recommend ticking/including it as airports are really busy and it can be very busy/stressful as a deaf person. Under European law, disabled people have legal rights to assistance. However, make sure you contact them at least 48 hours before your flight.

  • There is usually an email where you can explain what assistance you need and anything they should be aware of (for example, I like to make sure they need to face me even before I have got to the airport).

  • Types of assistance that you might need are things like helping through check-in, baggage check and customs controls; and telling you when the boarding announces your flight.

2. Most airports should have induction loop facilities, which amplify sound if you have a T-setting on your hearing aid(s). Text phones and public telephones with amplification and induction loops should also be available. If you need these facilities, you can ask staff assistance to tell you where to find these.

3. It is a good idea to explain that you are Deaf or hard of hearing to the cabin crew so that they can keep you informed of any important announcements, like delays or emergency landings, as well as knowing how to communicate with you.

4. Safety information videos should be subtitled, but if it is just a person demonstration, if you have told the cabin crew about your deafness, they should be able to provide the information in an alternative way.

5. If you have a/want to take your hearing dog on the plane with you, always tell the airline about this beforehand. The airline often asks you to produce proof that your dog has been trained by a recognised organisation (Assistance Dogs UK). You should also check the airline’s policy on carrying assistance dogs, as they should be allowed to travel free-of-charge, in the passenger cabin with you. When travelling with a hearing dog, you should carry identification for yourself and your dog, as well as a car safety harness - suitable for securing the dog at take-off and landing.

6. You can sign up for text or email alerts for your airline or use the airport/airline’s phone app, this means that you won’t miss important announcements about delays.

7. It’s also a good idea to bring devices in case of communication barriers, such as a live transcription phone app, pen and paper, and there are even some interpreter apps.

8. I always recommend having your hearing aid case, cleaning set and spare batteries in reach in case something suddenly happens when travelling; this can be kept with you when passing through metal detectors, body scanners etc. but I suggest you let the security officer know!

9. Many airlines offer specific services or guidance for Deaf and hard of hearing people so it’s worth doing a little research before your flight [link].


Wishing you a happy Deaf awareness week and a safe lockdown!

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