Are you a Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (HH) who loves to travel? Had you been researching different pieces of advice and tips about traveling? But have you noticed something?
Here is the problem, my Deaf friends,
the majority of travel bloggers are Hearings.
(note: we have ASL version here.)
Although we do share similar preparation for our trips, there are some differences that we need to consider for ourselves as a Deaf person. We have to consider our rights, accessibility, communications and other amenities that we need to get by whilst traveling.
The first time Lilo and I traveled, we thought we were prepared for our trips, based on these Hearing travelers, in some ways, sure – but in some ways, no.
You see, we had made mistakes along the way, learn to face different challenges that Hearings don’t face and of course, we learned something new along the way. There are some things we already know what to do as Deaf travelers, saying “yeah I know that already” blah blah. But the thing is, sometimes we don’t think of it. It happens! So, it’s always good to be prepared, especially when finding ourselves in an unpleasant situation, facing certain challenges or wanting to have accessibility.
So, here are 10 things that we want to share what you’ll need to consider to bring
as Deaf and Hard of Hearing travelers.
1. Screenshot, Screenshot, Screenshot!
You have no idea how many time this method saved our asses on several occasions. When Wi-Fi is not available, we screenshot several images that are necessary, including maps, addresses, restaurants’ name, language translation, etc.
For example, I personally do not like pork. Therefore, I screenshot Chinese, Korean and Thai’s translation for “pork,” and/or an image of the pig. Then I’d simply gesture NO (crossing my arms into “X” or shaking my head) as I showed people my screenshot image. This would be a beneficial method for those who are allergic to a certain type of food – nuts, seafood, etc as well! So, always try to prepare ahead of time! I also screenshot certain locations that will help me to ask locals by pointing at it and gesture, “where?” Why does this make any different for Deaf travelers comparing to Hearing travelers?
It is because we don’t only face the language barrier but it is the communication barrier as well.
2. Proof of Handicap/Disabled card
In America, Deaf people aren’t considered to be handicapped but disabled. However, when we apply for certain things, we often get Handicap symbol on our metro cards, etc.
So, what is our point here?
When we travel, we show our proof of disability/handicap cards to have certain accessibilities (sign language interpreter, closed caption, etc) AND sometimes we can find discounts at different attractions! Sometimes some people who work at the attraction sites may have a hard time believing that you have a disability (or handicap, “mental retarded” depending upon the country). It is not easy to spot a Deaf person (if hearing aids/cochlear implants aren’t visible or not seeing them signing) and say, “Oh, she’s Deaf.” Deaf is a “hidden disability.” Therefore, it is not distinguishable comparing to other disabilities.
I remember when I was in Seoul, I saw a discounted purchase for a ride up to the N Seoul Tower but required a proof of disability. At the time, Lilo and I didn’t have proof. So that is where we learned.
Lilo had an experience when she registered for her California State Parks Disability card, they had asked for a doctor’s note or proof of Disability card signed by a doctor. So, it is great to have a doctor’s note ahead of time (along with their contact number, just in case) or proof of disability cards before traveling.
However! Some attractions around the world won’t accept your proof of disability since you smell like money! You’re still considered as a tourist to them – unless you really blend in or is from that country. I mean, you’re practically a “bling bling! $$” to them. That is how they make profits.
3. Video messenger apps
Ah, the gift of technology today! Technology makes everything so much easier for Deaf to keep in touch with family and friends.
There are Facetime, Glide, Skype, Oovoo, Facebook Messenger, Line, KakaoTalk, Whatsapp and more! (For more alternative apps & software, check here.)
The best thing about these apps, all you need is Wifi and you can talk with your family or friends for free. It’s pretty amazing. You can use your data, but it can be quite expensive if you are visiting other countries, so make sure to research your cell plan ahead of time! Psst, we personally recommend using Wi-Fi when traveling out of the country!
4. Video Relay Service (VRS)
These are the software Deaf & Hard of Hearings can use: Sorenson, Convo, ZVRS/Purple!
Another great thing about technology today! There are Video Calls Relay Services where you can call through an interpreter to contact family members, doctors, insurance, etc! The best thing about having this software is that you are able to use interpreters anywhere you need them as long as you have wifi. However keep in mind that if you have a slow wifi, it affects the service! So if you have an important video call, please plan accordingly.
However, these services are available for Americans! As for as we know, not many countries have their own Video Calls software, like Hong Kong.
I personally have ZVRS (although it’s not that great). When I contacted ZVRS customer service to ask about having the service outside of the country! It is possible, but you are unable to receive calls from America. Only you can make the calls. If you don’t have any of this software, make sure that you register before leaving the country!
An alternative option is using Sprint IP Relay. This is an Instant Messaging (IM) where you can contact other people through an interpreter! I still personally use this sometimes as well.
5. Vibrating alarm clock
You know how many Hearings use the sound alarm that helps to wake them up? Well, that sound alarm won’t work for many of us Deaf. So, instead, we get a vibrating alarm where we can insert the bed shaker under the pillow or mattress. We’d wake up at the feeling of vibration as if we were going through an earthquake.
If you cannot afford a vibrating alarm clock, the other alternatives are getting a vibrating watch (like MaxiAids or WatchMinders).
Sure, you can use your clock app on your phone, but if you are a heavy sleeper like me? Vibrating alarm clock comes in handy!
A whistle, what the f-?
Yes, a whistle, you read that right. What if we get stuck in the snowstorm (like my dumbass self)? What if you are lost in the forest? What if someone robbed you? What if a mob of angry animals is coming at you?
Trust me! We have to be prepared if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we need help. It is essential to have a whistle with you because whistle can be very loud and heard far away compared to our screams.
Also if you are about to be attacked by animals, a whistle can help scare them off! There was a story of a Hearing traveler who was about to be attacked by a troop of monkeys, and she used a whistle to scare them off. It worked!
7. Hand written/Typed Emergency Contacts
You can’t plan emergency. It can happen at anytime, anywhere. To practice safety as a Deaf/HH traveler, it is helpful to have a card that says “I am Deaf/Hard of Hearing” and includes emergency contacts as well as any other conditions you have.
But I can just show them on my phone?
What if you are unconscious? What if you are in a difficult situation where you are not able to communicate with others?
Carrying this makes it accessible for yourself.
In addition, anyone who travels really should have traveler’s insurance. It is so important to have because you really can’t plan emergency. You’re a human being, not a superhero. So if you happen to get injured, the travel insurance can help you. Without insurance, you will end up paying more money to get treated.
What about health insurance? Or insurance that is already included in some credit cards?
Your health insurance will only cover locally, where you are living. They won’t cover you while traveling outside of your city. As for credit cards, they are for any travel-related, such as scams, flight cancellation, auto accidents, etc. But not for any health-related issues!
We strongly recommend getting a travel insurance. It may be pricey, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! We recommend using World Nomads, but be sure to research and compare prices!
You can use a small travel size flashlight, headlamp or a flashlight APP on your phone (unless you want to save battery).
When we are camping outside in the dark, we are unable to read lips or see someone else signing. For many of us, we rely on visually. We rely on facial expressions, sign language, etc. Having flashlight is essential for Deaf/HH to communicate with others.
9. text-to-voice/voice-to-text app
This is not required but it is something that we want you to be aware, so that you can have more option! This can help when you are meeting different people. Whether if you need to ask for help for direction, meeting new Hearing people, etc!
10. A small notebook & pen/pencil
Wait, why a small notebook and a pen when we have Note app on our phone? Sure, it is no doubt that many of us have the technology to communicate with others; however, what if you need to save your battery? What if you are unable to access to Wi-Fi? Or what if you are in a remote area or deep wild jungle of Amazon? A small notebook & pen would come in handy! This is a great (traditional way) to communicate with others.
So there you have it, my friends! These are the 10 things that we suggested for Deaf and Hard of Hearing travelers have for their future travel.
Do you have anything else that you used to travel? Let us know in the comments!