With travel back on the rise we at Hearing Loss LIVE! wanted to share our experience with travel. What better way than to start with Airports. Pre-pandemic airports were a struggle and now? We have the MASK! No two airports are the same with hearing loss access. But there are Federally regulated ADA laws to help assist you with travel.
What we would like to see here at Hearing Loss LIVE! We would like to see inclusive access to communication at ALL airports nation wide, with sensitivity training to both TSA and airline staff at all levels.
Wouldn't be so less stressful if you knew hearing loops and open captions were available no matter where you were in the airport?
Bring your travel experience to us at hearinglosslive.com. The more we educate each other the more we can make a positive change for the future.
Our video podcast of this broadcast on our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/g7WD7XriBpA
Remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel while you're there, and share us on your social media!
Julia: Welcome to Hearing Loss LIVE! Talks Planes. Hi, welcome to Hearing Loss LIVE! It's November. And we all know what that means. Holidays are right around the corner, right? We have a series of travel and talking about all the fun events, you might be doing this holiday season, and best practices with your hearing loss. Today we're going to talk planes. Travel is something we all do. And plane travel in airports is really, really difficult. Whether you have a hearing or hearing loss, we have one of what we think is the best experts on travel with us here today as one of our co-founders. And that's Michele Linder, I'm going to turn it over to her and she's going to talk to you about her travel experience and best practices that worked for her. Michele, can you give us some insight?
Michele: Thank you, Julia. Um, you know, you don't have to have a disability or hearing loss to be nervous about traveling, especially if you're traveling solo. There are all kinds of people who have all of their senses, and they just become unraveled with travel. But it's kind of an attitude shift. I had the good fortune of having a spouse who worked for a major airline. So from 1993, all the way to 2017, I had flight benefits, unlimited flight benefits. And so I was able to travel a lot. And early on, I decided that traveling solo was a good idea as a training ground on how to become a better communicator, and a better self advocate. And so I use travel, to know myself better as a person with hearing loss. And there are two really major things that you need to remember. You can't fake hear, when you're traveling solo, you just can't. You have to get the information right. And so by traveling alone, you're forced to communicate better, to stand up for yourself more, and tell people exactly what you need. If you're not hearing what they're saying. You have to find another way to do it. And so through trial and error, I learned how to be a much better self advocate and communicator. The other thing that you need to do is state your truth. A lot of times people just tell others, they assign themselves a label, I'm hearing impaired, I'm hard of hearing, I have a hearing loss. But that really leaves a lot of questions. People aren't really sure what all that means I use, If I label myself I tell people that I'm deaf, but I'm a lip reader. And so then I go on to tell them what I need. So state your truth and give people direction on how to communicate with you and tell them outright what you need for communication. For me, that might be you know, writing things down, I usually and you know, you need to do it every step of the way, you're gonna come into contact with the ticket agent, the gate agent, TSA people, anyone throughout the airport. So you have to tell people that you can't hear and what you need from them. And I always say I'm deaf. I'm a lipreader, but it doesn't always work. So you may have to write this down for me. If it's information that I need to be competent that I got right. I tell everyone when I boarded the plane. I tell the flight attendant, the first flight attendant I see, "you need to know that I'm deaf. But I read lips and here's what I need from you. If you need my attention, tap me on the shoulder and then start speaking. Also, I'm not going to hear the emergency announcements. So you're going to have to come and get me and make sure that I know what's going on." And you know after I've done that, very rarely does anything arise because she spreads the word, tells the other flight attendants. And then when I sit down, I also do the same thing with my seat mate. Sometimes I'll joke around and say, Hey, you're in luck today, I'm not going to be chatty. So, you know, I'm deaf, if you need my attention, just tap me on the shoulder, that kind of thing. And there are all kinds of things that you can do. But the biggest thing is, don't fake it, stay your truth, and take control. So I'm going to turn it over to Chelle, because she has some other pointers. I don't want to take all the information to talk about here.
Chelle: Yes, let's see. So I've traveled, not as much as Michele, but enough to get around. There's been times I've traveled by myself. Probably more times than I've traveled with my husband, just because I've gone to hearing loss conventions, and he doesn't always go with me. So that was a good training ground for me, too. And where I learned it really is important to mark the hearing impaired section when buying my ticket. Because if I, if I don't have it on my ticket, they might question it when I get up to the counter. So I'm very careful to mark that every time now. I sometimes have a button that I would wear that says I'm a lipreader. Hopefully it's a visual that people will pick up on and "Oh, yeah, she's not going to hear me" so that I'm a lipreader button really helps. And I don't have one with me, right, right now. I've gone with my husband a few times. And they're both, I remember one time, I was kind of like, Oh, I just have him help me, because, oh it's a hearing person with me now. But you know, he might not be focused on the conversation or the announcement. He's not focused on the announcements, because he has this brain that's always ease dropping on other people's conversations. So if I'll ask him what the announcement said, "I don't know." [laughing] Or, I would ask him what the announcement said. And he would say it's not important. You know, one of those things we all hate to hear. And I learned it was really frustrating to depend on him for me, because of our different ways of thinking. And that's when I took charge. And that Okay, the next time we fly together, I'm marking, hearing impaired, and he's gonna have to go with me, and, and do the whole routine with me, or he can board whenever he wants. [laughing] Because it wasn't any less stressful depending on him. It was more stressful, almost. And that's me not fair to him or me. So it was better for me to just take charge and go, Okay, I'm pre boarding. You can come with me or you can wait. I don't think I was that mean precisely. But it was that was my thinking. And it was a lot better. I mean, it takes away all the stress to preboard. And I had no idea how, how much anxiety I had at airports until I realized I was just completely worn out when I got on the plane from trying to hear. It's nice that they have a visual system. Not all airports have a visual system for boarding and even then, by the time it lights up, they they've made the announcement before and I'm late getting in line and so it's just easier to preboard and I'm going to take it and I've had people it's like one of those things, okay. Airports are the worst acoustic places ever for me. It's like being in a big gymnasium where noise is bouncing around and people and just as I can't almost can't, can't hear voices at all there. So it's very difficult and stressful. And on pins and needles. That/s all I'm going to say it's like pins and needles. Preboarding took away so much anxiety I get on the plane. I'm relaxed. I'm like, Okay, I'm not so worn out for the next step of the journey. I can keep up. And even in planes, I cannot hear speech on planes. Those jet engines, override it all for me. But it is kind of nice like, I've never had to use the line, I'm not going to be chatty, [laughing] but I've been myself relieved to go in and sit down and I, I tell the person next to me that I'm pretty much deaf on an airplane and I'm not gonna hear when the waitress comes up, or waitress, stewardess comes up and down the aisle. So they need to tap me. Most of the time, they just let me be and I'm kind of happy not talking on airplanes. And what else can I say? The TSA agents, they are pretty good. And everything when I go through, and they say, I tell them, okay, you want me to face this way and do this whole bit. So but know, I can't see you. And I'm not going to hear anything you say. So you're going to have to tap me on the shoulder when it's done. And they've all been pretty good. I've not had a bad experience going through TSA knock on wood.
Michele: I just wanted to piggyback on what Chelle said about preboarding, it really does lessen your anxiety. I know in the early years, when I traveled alone, I was always and I always do carry on, and so I want to find a spot for my luggage in the overhead. And when you're in aisle and you're trying to wrestle with your luggage to get it up there, there are people passing you by, and you're not hearing what they say behind you. And so that's kind of stressful, and I've had people get really angry with me, because I'm not responding to them. And then I explain, you know, I can't look up to put my luggage up there and look behind me to see if somebody is going to talk to me. So preboarding really does lessen that anxiety. And you know, I never, it never occurred to me to ask about that. And early in my flying solo, there was a passenger who was blind, and she got all kinds of accommodation, I mean, the, the the gate agents were just falling all over themselves to make sure that sure preboarded in and yeah, they should have, there's nothing wrong with that. But it occurred to me, you know, I should ask for these things. And in the beginning, it seemed like they didn't feel like I needed to preboard. But then it became better over the years. And preboarding really does take away that anxiety because as a non-res passenger, and as a family member of an employee, you have to wait for them to call your name. Now they have it on the screen, which is a big help, but it used to be you had to hear your name called. So I would hover up there by the gate counter. And you know, a lot of times the gate agents would get really irritated at me and say, "go sit down, we'll call you" and I would say, "but I can't hear you. And I'm not going to take a chance on missing my name called. So I'm gonna stand right here." So, you, It teaches you to be direct and aggressive, not in a negative, aggressive way. But you know, those simple things really do make the experience a lot better. And you learn how to conduct yourself a lot better. And so and there's some other things you can do. The special services line, which it may be called different things at different airports, different countries, is for people with disabilities. And hopefully, those TSA agents who are manning that line, have had some training about people with disabilities. I've gotten some flack from other people who are Hard of Hearing saying, "Oh, I don't need that line." You know, I don't know why you would even use that. But it really gets you through the airport quicker. You don't have to wait on the long security line. You know, TSA makes verbal announcements, and I never heard those until I would get up to that person. And then they would, you know, kind of chide me for not having done whatever it is they told everyone to do. So it alleviates, if you're nervous about traveling going through the special services line really shortens that wait. And again, hopefully, TSA people who man that line, know a little bit more about people who communicate differently and I'm like Chelle, when you have to stand in and put your arms up and look ahead. I'm not going to hear. So I say, "hey, I'm deaf. So you're going to have to pull me out of this thing." Whatever. But. I can remember the first time I use the special services line. I saw people using it. And so I asked one of the TSA people, is this line for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing? And I said, Yes. And then the first time I used it, I had a TSA person call me out. And actually the other passengers, were making a big thing about it, too. Hey, she's cutting. Why is she using that line? Because you don't look like you have a disability. And so the TSA person didn't want to let me use the line. And so I asked for a supervisor. And they came and they told their employee, yes, this line is for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. And so I started using it from now on. Not because I needed it so much, but because I wanted to educate people who were manning that line. It's important that we take responsibility and educate along the way. So those are a couple more tips from my experience. I'm sure Chelle has other things. I have a million stories I could go into, but we don't have a ton of time. And Julia has something to contribute I'm sure. So I'm going to turn it over to one of them.
Julia: Make sure I'm on here. I actually a thought occurred to me, Michele, when you were talking about education. Why is TSA management not educating their employees? Where is their training on what disabilities are and how they may or may not look? I find in my past experience in human resource that invisible disabilities get missed a lot in training. Training managers, training supervisors, training human resource departments. I think it gets missed in training, gate agents, and you know, my grandma, we never had a problem she was by the time we traveled together on planes, she was wheelchair bound in the in the airport. So we had all sorts of services. I'm honestly not sure and never had a conversation on what she did before wheelchairs on hearing loss. But she traveled in a group, so I don't think she ever really had to hear the announcements. Everybody got up to board for Spain, so she got up and boarded with us. Um, so, but I do find a lack of training. And I do find on a public level, inclusion would be everything's captioned, right? open captioned, I can't hear anything in an airport. And now we're all masked. And I'm okay with the masks. I don't have a problem with that. Though I think if they're talking into this thing, they need to be taking their mask off. Not talking into the thing with the mask on because it just makes it worse. You know, that's my one complaint. But, you know, if it was just all captioned, it wouldn't be a big deal. And things are really chaotic right now at the airport is my experience from travel this summer. I can't imagine that I just for me, it's like, wow, I can't even imagine if I had a hearing loss. I'd be I don't know, I don't think I'd be getting on a plane right now. But again, you know, looped and public access and caption boards everywhere. It can't be that difficult. How much was just spent on the Salt Lake airport. I don't even know how much. I think there is some looping in some of it, but it's not really, you know, they didn't reach out to the community and say, hey, what would make this even better? I don't know. But bottom line, I do think there needs to be a better, I guess, sensitivity, understanding and inclusive discussion with employees at the airports. And at that the air, air, airplane levels for each of the companies. I just think that should all be mandatory. I don't know how to make that mandatory, but food for thought for you all out there. Let's work on that. Chelle?
Chelle: That's the general public. Because hardly anybody knows hearing loss and them seeing us cut in Brant pre board. She is walking, why does she get to go on? And I remember specifically one time I was preboarding and there was a guy lined up to be number one, he purchased the ticket where he could be right up front or something extra. And I walked up in front of him at the end of the preboard line. And, you know, I never heard anybody so his voice must have been specific. Or maybe he was projecting. I don't know why, but I heard him say, 'Why does she get to preboard, it's just a hearing loss?" And I, you know, I tried not to turn around and acknowledge it. Because I'm like, he's just clueless, he just really doesn't know what it's like to be an airport with hearing loss. There's a sense of anticipation or prediction in that. You see people starting to get up and move to lines, but you're never sure exactly what lines they called or numbers. Because I think it's numbers now and you know, there's been other times when it's been delayed, or the gates been moved, and you see people kind of in in a mass gather up their stuff and go to another gate, and I have to go find things out. If the ticket agent is still there, then I can ask them. If they're not, I found myself going to read a board, that big board to find out where all the gates and departures are. So you kind of have to ignore those kind of people. It's their problem, not ours, they have no idea what it's like to be in our shoes. Captioning would be wonderful in airports. All announcements captioned everything on the plane, they are better about captioning some announcements on the plane when you're watching the little movie screen. But it's not all captioned on there's a lot of things I miss, like when the pilot talks about the weather, the temperature, and little side things they talk about, like flying over the Grand Canyon, maybe or something like that. So that's never captioned. I missed out on those. But you can kind of see everybody's head swivel to the window. And I'm like, Okay, look down, there's something out there. So I use a lot of prediction or anticipation in what I do. The other thing I'll say is that I've been on a few long flights in the last three, four years. And the movies are not all captioned. I have to go to a specific list for caption movies, and it gives me just this, these some of these movies that they offer. They offer all kinds of movies for everybody, but I can only watch the ones with captions. So it'd be nice if all their movies were captioned. If it's a stream movie, isn't that like Netflix and Prime and all that? Shouldn't they have captioning on everything?
Julia: That's actually a good question. And I was gonna ask you, have you ever written in and asked them? emailed Hey, why? Why is this the list? Because I would be interested to know that answer, Michele, this nodding her head, maybe she's asked them.
Michele: Um, I have written in. Of course, my husband worked for a major airline. So I sent countless letters. And actually some of the captioning advocacy groups have made that a group effort. And remember years ago, we all combined on an effort to write to major airlines to let them know what we need. I mean, you know, every flight I get off, there's a person standing there with a play card with my name on it and a wheelchair. And I always say "Why thank you, but I'm perfectly capable of walking it. This is not a good accommodation for me. Please let your supervisor know that. It's great if someone needs that. But most of us what we need is the text of announcements and we need information in text form. We need captioning, on inflight, entertainment, those kinds of things. So please let your supervisor know that but thank you for trying." And then I walk on my way. Now some people think a wheelchair is great. They don't want to have to navigate the airport. They're perfectly fine to ride. The same thing with traveling with a companion. When I travel with a hearing partner, I don't like feeling invisible. I don't like never being talked to. I want to communicate for myself. And so there are different comfort levels with that. Some people are fine, letting the hearing person take charge and do everything I'm not. And that's because I've traveled alone so much, I know what I need, I can tell people what I need, I don't need someone else to communicate for me. So that's a personal decision. And I don't judge anyone for choosing differently, but I want to communicate for myself. And, you know, we have to educate, because there are some really uninformed people when you, you travel by air, or any mode of travel. I know when I flew to Salt Lake City for the first time, and I got ready to come home, I was going through the special services line, and the TSA person stopped me and said, "you can't use this line." pointed to the handicap sign said, "this is only for people with wheelchairs." And I said, "so you think that this sign means that only people with wheelchairs can use it?" Well, yeah. I said, "would you mind getting your supervisor," and you know, it's never a power trip or anything, I really want people to think about things and to know, their job better. And so the supervisor came out, explained to the person, that the wheelchair was just a symbol for disability. It didn't mean that only people with wheelchairs could use that line, and that I was perfectly eligible to use it. And so that person was educated. And of course, I told the supervisor, it might be a great idea for you to do some training on this, with all of your TSA people. So and you know, I've even got gotten flack from other hard of hearing people who say-- I served on a travel panel, and was talking about the special services line. And they said, "well, Michele, you travel so much, you don't even need that. I don't even know why you use it." And I said, because I want to educate people, because most people don't use it. They don't want to feel like they're getting special treatment, or they're timid, too timid to ask. But I'm going to use it because I want people to be educated. So you know, I think it's a good thing.
Julia: Yeah, that's, that's good insight. Any other thoughts, Chelle?
Chelle: Let me take a look at my notes that I've been writing. Oh, loops. We have advocated for loops. And one of my most favorite times to wear hearing aids, is when I'm in a loop, because I know I'm going to hear clearly. And without any of the background noise, and it would be just as awesome if each gate had a small seating section, you know, reserved for people with hearing loss and hearing aids telecoils in their hearing aids, because I could just snap into that, and it would block out almost all the airport noise. And I would hear announcements just like they're in my head. And so I that's why I hear a lot better with them. But we've had a hard time getting airports to loop them loop their gates, and waiting areas because they don't get it. [laughing] Bottom line, they don't get it. So loops would be awesome. And I would like that just as much as captions, but really, captions kind of cover at all. That gets Deaf, oral deaf, like Michele, that gets deaf people who know some English and they can get in on the captions. So captions is the big one. But boy loops would be so nice because I would feel like I could sit there and read a book like everybody else, or play a game on my phone and relax and then I would know I would get those announcements and I'd be fine. I think Minnesota has a loop portion in their airport. There some, I think one in Michigan. And I can't remember where the other ones are. But you need to look for the ALD symbol, which is like the shape of an ear with the one or two slashes through it. And it'll say T on it. If it's telecoil and loop. So if you look for those and you have a T coil in you're hearing aid, you have to ask your audiologist about that, I can't tell you and you can't tell by looking at a hearing aid, buy it's just most wonderful thing to pop into the T-coil mode and sit there and read a book that would be a dream.
Julia: Doable dream. Michele, do you have any more thoughts?
Michele: Um, I think that's probably covers it in the time we have, but again, I'm going to re emphasize, don’t' fake it. Faking is a coping mechanism, but it's not necessarily a positive coping mechanism. So stop fake hearing. Try to get the information. Ask. And you don't, you don't need to post self advocacy is a question. Don't say, "Would you mind" or you know, those kind of wishy washy phrases. Just tell people, this is what I need from you. And, you know, it's not being a complainer. It's not, you know, demanding, it's just telling people, people like that instruction. And you know, not letting things slide. You know, when someone offers me the Braille menu, I point that out, you're gonna feel really dumb when I tell you this, but Braille is for people who are blind, and they're like, Oh, my gosh, I mean, and then it becomes kind of a funny thing between you and they've learned something. So don't be afraid to speak up, no matter what it is, it really will help you become a better self advocate, a better communicator. And, you know, as a traveler, I don't want to wait until someone's free to go with me. I'm just gonna set out and go by myself and I want to feel comfortable doing that. And from my years of travel, I am comfortable doing that. And it's taught me more about my hearing loss than I think anything I've done. So you know, travel by air can be challenging, but it also can be very rewarding and teach you along.
Julia: Thank you, Michele. You're a great example of Be prepared to take care of yourself, in my opinion. No matter what your disability is, I think even Michele can move across all inclusivity. Thank you for joining us. Next week, we're going to give you HoHs in cars. What better for your holidays than to travel and be in a car with others where you can't hear a thing, right? So we're going to give you tips and tricks that that Michele and Chelle and even myself have used when we're traveling with Hohs in cars. We hope you're joining us tomorrow night with Conquering Your Next Family Gathering with Hearing Loss and we are excited to have you enjoying our stuff. Remember to like us on your social media and see you next week. Bye! Join Hearing Loss LIVE! Talks next week. HoHs in Cars.