Coffee Talk

Airports: How can they be more DHH Friendly?

In my experience, airports are not Deaf and Hard of Hearing (“DHH”) friendly at all, because of how dependent they are on spoken language, and sound. And quite frankly, I’m not sure what kind of solution is there to make these airports as DHH friendly that will not require a major overhall of everything around the airports. It also depends a lot on how you travel.

I think that the major thing that would make airports more DHH friendly is Communicative Visibility.  What I mean by that is to make all the announcements made via loudspeaker accessible via written language, essentially making it a closed captioning for every announcement.  The reason I find this important is that sometimes during my travels, I have encountered situation where an announcement was made about a gate change over the loudspeaker; however, the nearest screen is on the other side of the terminal, and sometimes I wouldn’t find out until the last minute before boarding.  Hey, the text message alerts don’t always work, either.

The reason that this is so hard is because it sounds like a logistical nightmare…and well, it kind of is.  Having such a capability means that you need to have an individual sharing the room with the person making the announcement. This person would have to type fast, simultaneously while the individual makes the announcement over the loudspeaker, and all of this would have to be connected to every screen in the airport.  Now, if you know anything about airports, then you know that aside from major airport announcements, every gate also makes their own announcements, thereby potentially putting the amount of announcements happening at airports in the hundreds per hour, and thousands per day.  Something like this would mean that there would have to be thousands of people working simply to type up the message for us so that we could see it.  That’s also not counting the idea of translating such messages to other languages for it to be accessible to non-English speakers.  It would mean a lot of investing on the part of the airport, and while it could be something to gain, the finances of airports are already strained by other legal requirements.

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