Stop us if any of the following statements are true for you;
“How can you travel as a deaf person? Isn’t it risky?” or
“Travelling is a big deal, it wouldn’t be safe for you.” or
“I want to travel, but I’m deaf and don’t know if it’s safe to do.”
Travelling is a wonderful experience! It can be relaxing, eye-opening to other people’s cultures, educational and just downright fun. If you’re travelling interstate or international, just getting out of your comfort zone can boost your confidence and help you grow. Everyone who has the privilege to travel should do it – even if you’re deaf!
But as with many things in life, deaf people are often questioned by hearing people about whether they can even do it. For a hearing and able-bodied person, travelling isn’t that much of a big deal, and their biggest worry would be their safety. Even then, they’ll argue that they’re better equipped to keep themselves safe anyway, so they don’t really let that bother them. So when they see a deaf person talking about travelling, they’re immediately sceptical. They’ll wonder IF or HOW you could even do it – how can you get around or how can you keep yourself safe. Often almost dismissing them or even talking fear into their dreams, leaving the deaf person to feel like they actually can’t do it. Which isn’t really fair.
The truth is, travelling as a deaf person is just as safe or risky as it is for a hearing person. When you hear news stories about bad things that happen to travellers, 9 times out of 10 that person isn’t deaf. The risk AND the rewards are the same. A deaf person just has to make adjustments or pay attention more (which, arguably means they’re probably going to be the safest because they’ll always be wary.)
We’re glad you asked! If you’re a deaf or hard of hearing person who’s itching for a tropical island getaway, that’s awesome! You’re allowed to do everything a hearing person can and if you want to hop on a plane, train or boat you SHOULD. You can do it, and you can do it while still enjoying yourself. Here’s how;
Write notes on paper or on your phone and encourage the person you’re trying to communicate with to do the same. Point (or gesture) to what you’re trying to draw attention too. If there’s a language barrier, there are many apps available (or even Google Translate) that you can use to type in what you want to say and then your phone will read aloud in the language you need. This is great because you can essentially use your phone to do all the talking for you. Just remember to tell them what they need to do to communicate back to you.
Remember; English is a universal language, and many popular tourist destinations will speak English as a second language. So as long as you can speak English, you’ll have some common ground, so don’t be afraid to talk to someone for help.
When it comes to airports or train stations, you can see when people around you start to move all at once or head somewhere in a group after an announcement is made. You’ll know that something is happening and you can ask someone for clarification if needed. However, we’re fortunate to have visual cues as well, so you can easily find out information regarding your plane or train on the information screens that are up everywhere. Remember, people speak different languages too, so there will be people who rely on the screens so they’ll always be accurate and up-to-date. Heck, hearing people rely on reading the screens and signs more than they listen to announcements too. And they don’t even realise it.
Safety tip: if you need to double-check, find a security guard or find an information booth with a worker. Especially if you’re in a foreign country. This goes for anyone really, but always try to find an employee to ask for help before you ask a random person. And, of course, never follow anyone anywhere – it’s very easy for someone to write down directions, point, or simply nod for confirmation.
Regardless of where you are, just be smart and use common sense. This goes for anyone but you’d be surprised how many hearing people don’t do any of these things because their guards are let down. As a deaf person, you’ll know to never let your guard down, so you’ll always be safer in the long run. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and be assertive when asking for help. Do your research before travelling by finding out how safe/unsafe the destination is in general before you go, and if you should be aware of anything when it comes to public transport. And don’t let people take advantage of your disability, as you may face some discriminations.
In the end, with some common sense and some general safety tips, you CAN travel as a deaf or hard of hearing person. Don’t let anyone talk fear into your dreams because, as they say, you only live once.
All photos are ©Youth in Bloom and not to be used or taken without permission.