Travel Weekly

I bought up an important issue on behalf of us Deaf travelers and we had an interesting discussion in the topic. An article was published in the Travel Weekend afterwards.
During a panel discussion on the topic, a deaf man in the audience said tour operators have refused to provide sign language interpreters to deaf travelers -- or want to charge them for the service. "A deaf person does not have the same experience a hearing person does. ... We need to let deaf people also travel the world. It's an untapped market," he said. Harry Dalgaard, president of Avanti Destinations, said, "We're just scratching the surface and trying to provide the quality of the product that you need is a challenge, but it's also a focus that we need to look at. We're just exploring it." Tauck president Jennifer Tombaugh said there had not been great demand for services for deaf or hard-of-hearing travelers. "We don't do a good job on that, but we also haven't had demand for that," she said. However, the audience member was the second person in a week to bring it up to her. "We're starting to take a look at how we can provide in-depth experience to all of our potential clients out there," she said. Accommodating disabled travelers is an ongoing conversation for John Van Den Heuvel, president of Gogo Vacations. One of his good friends is a wheelchair user, keeping the issue front of mind, he said. However, like Tombaugh, he said deaf and hard-of-hearing travelers had not been on his radar. He thanked the man for bringing it up. "I appreciate it and I say thank you, and it's part of my conversation moving forward," Van Den Heuvel said. Several agents in the audience spoke up, encouraging individuals with disabilities to seek the help of an agent who specializes in assisting travelers like themselves.

 Jamie Biesiada  Travel Weekly

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