When You Find Captions At The Airport

Not only is Hawaii extraordinarily beautiful, it is also hearing loss friendly! Several months ago, my family and I were lucky enough to visit Hawaii. You can read about our luau adventure here.

It was a wonderful trip so it was with a heavy heart that we headed to the airport for our flight back home on Hawaiian Airlines. But while we waited for the flight, something amazing happened. Every time the desk agents played a pre-recorded announcement (like the ones that announce boarding procedures), the screen displaying the flight details transformed into an open captions screen! You can see it in the two photos below.

Now that is what I call a hearing loss friendly airport!

My son noticed it first. “Look, Mom,” he cried, “There are captions!” He is always so excited when somebody does something to make it easier for me to hear. Since I was traveling with my family, I was not paying attention to all the announcements and flight details they way I would if I had been on my own. When alone, I sit right at the gate so I have a visual of everything that is happening in case of any travel disruptions.

Once I saw them, I was extremely happy about the captions, but I wondered if the main purpose was to help those with hearing issues. Hawaii is such an international destination, perhaps it was more for the benefit of those who don’t speak English as their first language. Either way, it shows the power of inclusive design — the benefit not only falls to the group needing the assistance, but to the community at large as well.

Only the pre-recorded messages were captioned, so I’m not sure how well they would have worked if there had been a gate change or other unexpected event, but it was certainly better than nothing. I believe we will be seeing more of this at other airports in the near future as air travel advocacy efforts continue.

Changes are already underway for rules about in-flight entertainment which should improve the number of entertainment options on flights that are captioned. Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) sits on an advisory committee on accessible transportation that provided recommendations to the Department of Transportation on this point. You can read the committee’s full report here.

The committee also made suggestions about adding in-flight announcements (both pre-recorded and real time) to the list of captioned items required on airplanes. Changes like this may take more time, but things are heading in the right direction.

Air travel can be challenging for people with hearing loss, but with current advocacy efforts and technology fixes — always download your airline’s app to your smart phone before going to the airport — it is already possible for people with hearing loss to fly safely and productively. The work for further improvements continues.

Readers, have you experienced captioned announcements at your airport?

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10 thoughts on “When You Find Captions At The Airport

  1. My tip for flying with Hearing Loss: As I approach the gate for boarding, I always tell the agent at the desk that I have hearing loss and would like to board early, as I will not hear the announcements about lining up, etc. I have never been turned down, and am always handled personally by an agent, often being the first one to board the plane! I don’t have to listen about “zones” and I have my pick of storage space, as well as being able to navigate the aisles easily. I passed through Honolulu’s airport briefly, along w/ two other Hawaiian airports, in December, but did not notice anything such as you describe. It’s all to the good! Thanks for reporting!!

    • I had that same wonderful experience this fall with South West Airlines…it really destressed me…they told to wait til all till all the wheelchair handicap board and then I was next…I had flown other airlines and never experienced this…so it made a difference for me…

  2. I’ve learned to let the gate agent know that I am hearing impaired as well. I have spent spent so much of my life trying to be “normal” and disguise it that I felt guilty about asking for early boarding. It’s taken a bit of time but I’ve found they are very accommodating and I now view it as a perk if you will of being hearing impaired.

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