Last week, I flew to Vegas, baby! I really feel like saying I'm going to Vegas isn't complete without the punctuation of "baby!" A "yeahhh!" would be a nice touch, but let's not get out of hand.
I got to preboard the plane because I am hard of hearing. I felt a little bad, like I am cheating. It's not like I need physical help getting on the plane, and if I had been travelling with someone who could tell me what the announcements and such were, I would have opted out of preboarding. But the thing is that I am travelling alone, no companion to tell me if we're about to go down in flames. Although I think that would be pretty easy to figure out. But I just like someone to know that I won't be able to hear the announcements. How else will I know if the plane has to make an emergency stop or that bad weather is preventing us from landing?
I flew Southwest and they are pretty good about accommodating hard of hearing passengers. When I ordered the tickets online, there was an option for me to enter my phone number so they could text me if something came up. That little feature came in handy when the flight was delayed (twice!) and later when we had to move to a different gate. Of course, they were making those announcements over the intercom and I could hear the noise of it but not understand what they were saying.
And when we had to switch gates, I actually hadn't gotten the text yet so I wasn't completely sure what to think when about half the people at the gate got up and started walking in the same direction. I mean, I kind of gathered that we were switching gates, but I felt a little insecure not having heard it for myself. So I followed them until I found a flight information screen and found the right gate. By the time I figured out where I was supposed to be, the text came through... a little after the fact, but whatevs.
Also, while I was waiting at the new gate, I eavesdropped on a conversation between a deaf passenger and one of the Southwest employees. The deaf passenger was asking if this was the right gate for the flight and then explained that she didn't know because she couldn't hear the announcement. I talked to her for a little bit myself, very nice lady. But she looked like she felt so sorry for me when I told her that I just followed the crowd and checked the flight status screen. She had just been asking other passengers to relay the info to her and conveyed that it was sad that I had to figure things out for myself. Huh what? I mean, yeah, information wasn't as quickly or as readily available to me as it was for the passengers who could hear the announcement, but a few minutes and a little thinking outside the box and I was good to go. I didn't feel sorry for myself or mad at Southwest for having to check the board. I just did what I had to do to make sure I knew what was going on.
Yes, as a hard of hearing person, I may have to adapt a little more to my circumstances and no, it's not always fair that I don't have the same information presented to me in the same way or always at the same time as other people, but so what? It's not sad that I use my brain to figure things out on my own or consider what other resources I have at my disposal. Maybe I missed a good opportunity to educate an airline on what to do with deaf and hard of hearing passengers, but at the same time, in this case there wasn't really a need. I felt they were already doing the best they could and I don't know what scolding them for not coming and telling me which gate to move to would accomplish. I did eventually get a text from them telling me where to go and I had other resources to use.
There's a fine line between advocating/raising awareness and adapting, I think. Some deaf/hard of hearing people seem to demand that they receive information and services and attention and get quite upset when their needs aren't met in a timely manner. I'm all for equal access, but let's use our brains, too. We don't live in a perfect world and frankly, I've been noticing lately just how many of us (deaf, hearing and everything in between!) expect life to be comfortable and roses and sunshine all the time, and it's nice when we have those moments, but life in general is not like that. We don't live in a fair world and sometimes we just have to cope the best we can. For the hard of hearing, sometimes this means going without the communication assists we are used to and finding or coming up with other ways of getting the information we need. A lot of times, those other ways are just as good as having an interpreter or captioning or personal attention. Other times it will be uncomfortable or tedious or barely sufficient, but oh well. Life goes on and I would rather do hard things and maybe be a better, more adaptable person for it than to demand the easy things and live a life of constant disappointment.
Whew. End rant.
On a lighter note, Vegas was fun. I went to visit my cousin and her family. We went on the strip a couple of nights, once to walk around and the second to visit Madame Tussad's (wax museum). We also went to the Hoover Dam, went on a train ride and kicked each other's butts at Mario Kart. Good times, and pictures to follow on Facebook. Eventually. I am the slowest picture uploader ever.
I really do like to travel and my wish list for next year includes Florida and Washington D.C. Who's with me?!