Delta Airlines Didn’t support me as a Deaf Passenger

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On Saturday December 22, 2012 I arrived at the airport in the early afternoon to take a flight into Detroit Michigan with my daughter. First thing we did was park and board the shuttle bus in the airport. Yes, I told the shuttle bus driver I was deaf because he was asking me where to drop me off. The driver didn’t follow me, and he continued to talk and not look at me so I didn’t understand a word he said. Therefore my daughter had to speak for me. And I never heard the rest. Then we went to check in our bags. As soon I gave the lady my license at the check in counter to check us in, I told her I was deaf. Listen, I can’t read minds, but the first impression I got was she gave me a very disturbing look as if she was pressured and uncomfortable as she didn’t know what to do since I was deaf. Then to cover up that look she smiled. She did not hand me any pamphlets or brochures with any information on any help for deaf passengers that the airport might have to help me. Therefore I assumed the airport had nothing. I looked at her hopelessly, after 40 years of flying, I thought she might have something to help me in the airport as a deaf passenger. Nope, she gave me my license back and gave me a big smile as if I was cool because I was deaf. Have a nice day is all said. She was a very nice lady, but since she worked there, she should have referred me to whatever services the airport had to offer for deaf passengers. No, she didn’t, and I knew nothing about their services.

Then we proceeded to the Security Checkpoint area. This is when I get nervous because after 40 years of flying, I have never been able to understand the guards in this section of the airport. There were closed captioned screens above us, about three of them. This is the first time I saw them and I applaud the airport for finally putting those up. These things were fantastic for the deaf. But there was still a problem. I didn’t see anyone using sign language that worked in the Security Area, so I did my best to lip read. The worst part was walking through the booth and putting your arms up as they scan you because they tell you to look straight ahead at the wall instead of the person that is checking you through. Therefore I couldn’t even lip read or understand what that guard was saying. I just pray to god, I don’t do the wrong thing when not hearing what the guards are telling me to do there. This is the most difficult part. When are the airports going to notify the guards in the security area that they have a deaf passenger going through and needs someone there to use sign language to tell them how to proceed through? Believe me, I had to go through this for 40 years of not understanding what is going on. Same old story, but my daughter would be there to save me in case I said or did the wrong thing. I was worried that the security guards might think I wasn’t following their directions if I didn’t hear what they told me to do. Well if your airport had trained some of your staff sign language to help the deaf, why didn’t you provide me with that help when I was there? Why didn’t you send me any information on this, or put in the paper, or on commercials on t.v. I never knew what help you had there.    Oh wait, you have your information on the websites?   Where?  My computer broke down, I can’t get online to find anything.    As a matter of fact I don’t always use the internet. So how am I going to find out about your deaf services if I don’t use the internet?     Where do I find it?  So you have phone numbers to call  regarding deaf services?    I can’t hear well on the phone, and I don’t use the TTY.   And when I tried to call the Delta Airlines in Dec. for help on my Caption Call phone, their line was always busy with recordings .     I could never get through to you.   So you have a website for deaf passengers at the Delta Airlines?     Why do you tell me this after my flight is over, and where is it online?   Why didn’t you notify me before I arrived at that airport so we could make some kind of arrangements?

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We head to our gate. I’ve read in the papers that airports now provide captioned monitors at the gates. So I couldn’t wait to see this newest invention because I never saw this before. Well when we got to our  gate, there was nothing there. No closed captioning monitors, no screens, no pamphlets for the deaf to look at for information on where to get help. All there was the desk and the door to the plane and our empty seats. The gate attendant made a number announcements over the microphone. I didn’t understand a word of any of them. Now I was sitting here worried I was going to miss my plane because I didn’t know when we were supposed to go on. On a few occasions I asked the gate attendant to wave to me when I was supposed to board my plane. Well, that didn’t help because the gate attendant forgot to wave to me, and I nearly missed that plane. Sitting at the gate I was feeling miserable. After 40 years, why didn’t they make any thing better for the deaf passengers? Why do I have to keep suffering this way. Is it too much to ask for to have them satisfy our communication needs by putting up a closed captioned monitor at our gates?  It would be nice, then I could just read the words about when it’s time to board our plane. They didn’t have that on Dec. 22, 2012 when I was there. My day at the airport was making me quite miserable. If my daughter wasn’t with me, I don’t know what I would have done. I don’t feel comfortable asking strangers at the gate to tell me anything. Usually they don’t understand me when I tell them I am deaf and to please tell me when I have to board the plane. They look upset, like they don’t want to be bothered, and I don’t want to bother them. They probably don’t know anything about how to communicate with deaf people, so I can understand where they are coming from. Usually I would just keep asking the gate attendant if my plane is boarding, but the gate attendant is usually too busy with the passengers and checking their tickets. So I am stuck. My daughter told me it was time to go on board, so I followed her.
plane

Once we got settled into our seats there were a few announcements being made over the speakers. I didn’t understand any of them. Then before take off they did a safety demonstration with the lady upfront showing us the safety features of the airplane. I was sitting in the back, I didn’t understand one word being said. And I couldn’t see her or what she was doing. So that went on and at first I didn’t even know they were doing it because I couldn’t hear it over the microphone. My daughter told me. Why couldn’t she have used sign language? Why wasn’t there a closed captioned monitor at my seat? I wish there was one, so that way I could read what they were telling us about the safety demonstrations. Believe me, for 40 years, I had to sit through these safety demonstrations not hearing any of it and not understanding what to do. So if anything happened, I wouldn’t know how to save myself on the plane. I would probably just copy what someone else does if there is an emergency. You figured after 40 years of flying I would know what to do if there was a plane emergency. Nope I have no idea what to do, because they did not close caption the demonstrations and they didn’t use any sign language. So I didn’t hear any of it in 40 years, and I have been on the plane a 1000 times. Well I was dying for a drink. Well the flight attendant never walked by to ask if I needed anything. All I needed was a nice cold drink to make up for this miserable experience. And I didn’t get served any water or anything. Then we landed and I went to spend Christmas with my family in Michigan. Yes, It told them about this lousy experience and they sympathized with me.

Wasn’t there some law out that is supposed to protect the deaf passengers at airports to accommodate them to their needs? Well the Delta Airlines did nothing for my communication needs on Sat. Dec. 22nd, from the Buffalo airport. Yes, I notified the buffalo airport of this problem. But the Delta Airlines never sent me any apology or did anything to make up for it. As long as they get their money, they are fine. Guess what, this doesn’t stop here.  I’ve put up with your nonsense for many years of being ignored as a deaf passenger. It’s time for me to put my foot down and to ask you to respect the deaf passengers. I sure hope nobody else goes through what I did that day.

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About wanda4848

I was born deaf. The doctors thought I could hear, but my parents couldn't get me to learn to talk. When I was three, my mom took me to an audiologist who concluded I was deaf. That's when I got my first pair of hearing aids and took speech therapy to learn to talk.

Posted on February 2, 2013, in deaf articles. Bookmark the permalink. 134 Comments.

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  3. I apologize for this experience. I know an apology from them would be better but that is probably more difficult to get. It would seem like common sense for them to either train staff on the basics for common flight language for deaf individuals but they may think that this measure would cost too much money or time and effort until they are met with a lawsuit. Sometimes, I wish more people in the Deaf community would speak up or write letters to show thier dissatisfaction with these types of companies. I think it would have helped if they had signs posted to help deaf consumers know where to access thier infromation about deaf services or signs posted that have the basics signs and ways to interact with deaf consumers. I guess the positive is at least they had closed caption on the television. They could even add pre-taped videos in sign language (by professional interpreters) explaining procedures that flight attendants explain to the hearing passengers. I will be going on a trip in a few weeks and hopeful I remember to ask them about there deaf services and who I can send suggestions to. Thank God for your daughter, I know it may be alot for both her and you but I remember doing the same things for my mom and it has made me the person I am today.

  4. Hi, thank you so much for your information and thoughts. I have written to the airport and I asked them to post signs up a few weeks ago and to send out brochures to tell us about the deaf services they had to offer. This was their response, they said the airport didn’t want to spend the money on materials such as brochures because it becomes costly. But they will see what they can do after I have complained about their lack of information to the deaf people on what they have to offer there. When I asked if they could put up signs at the NFTA meeting and in my letters to the airport, I did not get any answers to that yet, so far. I am still waiting to see what they can change, because the airport did not do a good job of getting their information out to the deaf community. I knew nothing about their trained staff that knows sign language there. It is so good to talk to you, as you understand where I’m coming from and not getting enough answers to this problem so far from the airport.
    And I agree with you, I think more deaf people should speak up and write letters when it comes to problems like this. I had also asked the airport to do commercials on t.v. just like what you mentioned to show how the airport helps the deaf passengers. But they did not respond to that suggestion I made to them. I am still waiting, maybe they are working on it, so I will see what happens later. Have a great trip. 🙂

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