I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, which I very much enjoy, but with hearing loss, the logistics can be challenging. From gates changes at the airport, through the complexity of the boarding process and the various security announcements on the plane, there is a lot of important information being shared — and in most cases, this information is provided only verbally.
But one airline has stood out to me — Delta Air Lines. Delta did not ask me to write this and was not involved in this post in any way, but I believe that those of us with hearing loss must actively advocate for ourselves to help raise awareness of our needs. This can take the form of asking for accommodations when we need them, lodging complaints when our needs are not met, but also through praise when a business or individual meets or exceeds our expectations. Perhaps this positive feedback will encourage other airlines to follow suit.
At the gate, Delta prominently displays its boarding announcements, pending upgrades, and standby acceptances on large screens located around the boarding area as a supplement to the verbal announcements. This is incredibly helpful for people with hearing loss.
During one of my recent trips, bad weather delays made it possible for me to fly standby on an earlier flight. When I cleared the list, it was posted on the screens in the boarding area so I didn’t need to constantly hover by the gate agents, hoping I would hear my name if it was called. Instead, I used the extra time to grab a snack, use the restroom and relax. It made the experience much less stressful. All flyers, even those with perfect hearing, benefit from this.
On the flight itself, there were a few captioned movie options — including the new Star Wars movie. There were not as many as I would have liked, but more than the norm, where captioning is typically limited to foreign films.
While my experiences on Delta were better than I have come to expect, much work remains to improve air travel for people with hearing loss. Here are my suggestions. Please share yours in the comments.
1. Gate announcements provided both verbally and in writing: This can be achieved by using screens in the gate area, as was the case with Delta. Until this is widespread, be sure to download your airline’s smartphone app before you go to the airport. That way you can check for flight delays and gate change announcement in real-time on your own. You can read more about that here.
2. Captioned in-flight announcements: In an emergency, safety information should be available for all. The same applies to information about delays, flight times and connecting gates. While the safety video was captioned on my Delta flights, none of the pilot’s commentary was. Those of us with hearing loss should not need to rely on a friendly (or unfriendly) seat mate to provide this information.
3. Equal access to entertainment options: While I was pleased that there were a few movie options that had captions, it should be universal. The same goes for all programming. In almost all cases, the captions have already been created; they just need to be activated.
Readers, what would make air travel with hearing loss easier for you?