The pandemic has really got us stuck at home for over a year, who would have thought we would have been at home for this long?
One thing a lot of people are not aware of is the adjustments that someone who has a disability has to make for traveling. It's already second nature to me but I would like to share what traveling via air looks like from my perspective.
When I get to the airport, I only wear my hearing aids when I need to check in for my flight and answer security questions. Especially more so in foreign countries where heavily accented English are spoken. By default, I try as much as possible to avoid dealing with real-life ticketing agents by checking in online and selecting bag-drop options. It's always a relief to have this option, but more often than not I'd have to speak to someone. However, leveraging the bag drop option minimizes the number of questions that are asked and conversations that need to happen.
Once I'm through with getting through security, I automatically wear my earphones until I board my flight. The reason I do this, it makes me focus. If I don't wear my earphones, I get carried away when I'm window shopping at the duty-free and forget to stay alert. In a weird way being deprived of one of my senses makes me stay alert and focused.
One thing I didn't realize was normal for other people was listening to flight announcements. I, unfortunately, can't hear them. The audio is way too difficult for my brain to discern so I don't bother. I just rely on flight boards, plan my time meticulously, get to my boarding gate on time and stay close to it. This is probably why I've only missed a flight ONCE in my life. and that was because of a friend.. Story for another day.
When it's time to board the aircraft and seat numbers/zones are being called. I don't hear those either. I just observe what's happening and sometimes ask people what zones are being called. What is usually helpful is when the airline displays the zones boarding on their screen so that way I do not have to ask anyone.
More often than not, because I usually travel solo. I find that I'm usually asked to go ahead and board (even if it's not my turn to board)
When I board the plane, it's the same thing. I don't hear the pilot/cabin crew's flight announcements and just hope for the best. I usually hope that anything that's important for me to know gets displayed on the screen somehow. However, what I've noticed in recent years is that some airlines are now a lot more accessibility friendly and usually caption their mandatory flight announcements.
I wonder if it is possible for airports and airlines to start to use live captioning features for hard-of-hearing individuals, the way it's being done now on phones and Google Chrome. That's definitely a project I would like to manage as a project manager.
Then my time of peace starts. If there's one thing I love about traveling, it's the feeling of being disconnected from the world for a few hours. I miss that for sure.
However, the downside of this if the flight experiences extreme turbulence and I don't know why. It is definitely unsettling not knowing what is being said or what is happening. I usually just ride it out, pray that all goes well and it's not my last flight. Boy, I have experienced some very unsettling turbulent flights to the point of throwing up. I wonder if it's the added anxiety of not knowing what's happening that adds to the cause of nausea.
I know that's definitely not the time to be asking my co-seat partner what the pilot is saying as we are all so nervous and on edge.
When we land and if there's a delay in offboarding the plane. Without hearing the announcements, I can usually figure out through visual cues and looking out the window why we aren't offboarding yet. If I'm really not sure then I'd ask someone (which I try not to do as the last thing I want to do after the end of a long flight)
What I did not anticipate was how much an experience I loved and had adjusted to would become 10 times harder and stressful thanks to COVID-19. Because we have to wear masks. I can't read lips.
Reading lips is something I do in conjunction with listening to someone without my hearing aids and helps me when communicating with others.
The last couple of flights I was on in the pandemic, the attendants were super helpful once I let them know that I was hearing impaired and went out of their way to make sure I understood whatever it was they were saying usually by communicating via my phone notes app.
I've also had to rely on the kindness of strangers. On flights when I'm being asked what meal I wanted or what drink I wanted. I simply just cannot hear the cabin crew over the din of the aircraft (the masks have removed my ability to lip-read). The strangers next to me tell me what are the options are (either by using notes apps or pulling their masks slightly so I can read their lips) I am always grateful for this. It also taught me that human beings can be kinder than we realize. sometimes we just have to reach out a hand to ask for help.
Thanks to this blog I've become a lot more confident about sharing my hearing loss and letting people know I need that extra accommodation.
That, in a nutshell, is my experience of traveling as a hearing impaired invidual...
I hope you're well keeping well in these interesting times we are currently living in. Let me know the comment section how you are doing!
Until next time!