Growing up in audio-centric world, Hearing people* were instilling fears in me, even questioning how would it be possible for me to travel due to being Deaf. And I once believed their fears were the sole truth.
How is it that I could navigate alone at the airports or communicate with local people without a Hearing companion?
Living like a turtle in the shell, I often wondered what the world has to offer. yearned to be out of the shell, because I’ve always love adventures. Even as a child, I’d often seek out adventures independently before I believed their fears. One day, I began to realize that I have so many potentials than what many Hearing people believed about me. I knew that I had to take a leap of faith, a leap that I just have to do.
When I first started my backpacking journey, I couldn’t help to have some fears and expectations about some Hearing people. I was ingrained to become accustomed to discrimination, isolation, rejection, and impatience from several Hearing people. But several local people that I’ve met during my travel really changed my life. One of the most meaningful experiences I had as a Deaf traveler was meeting my very first Couchsurfing host who is Hearing (I’ll call her “Min”). I already anxiously prepared myself for the possibility of getting discrimination from Min. When I finally saw her, to my surprise, she already had a pen and notepad ready with her. I was taken aback because I never once told her that I prefer the written communication method but she already prepared this herself.
Once I felt comfortable enough with her, I sometimes used my voice despite my Deaf accent. Min never once pressured me to talk or gave me pity looks. Without hesitation, she’d switch to different communication techniques with me: written/typed communication, gestures and verbal communication. This experience may seem very simple but it was relatively huge for me, and one of the most memorable travel experiences I had.
Because of Min and several local people that I’ve met during my travel, I’ve not only gained a better faith in them but trust in myself. I’ve learned a huge lesson from them: fear, itself, is often a product of our imagination. Traveling has taught me to face fears. I then no longer let that hold me back while traveling. I learned to navigate this audio-centric world, such as trying several different communication techniques, including but not limited to written/typed communication, using gestures, and using Google translation. Like my experiences with Min, it is one of the prime examples of inclusivity, and we need more in the travel industry.
There are over 1 billion people with disabilities around the world, including 466 million of people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. Yet, it is still lacking in many areas in the travel industry. Inclusion is especially important. It isn’t just about enabling Deaf people or Disabled people to travel independently or helping different businesses. Inclusion means we are being heard/seen. Inclusion means that we are being treated as human beings, not a person just to be pitied upon.
*Hearing people refer to those who are not Deaf or Hard of Hearing or affected by any type of hearing loss.