February 28, 2018. When you are hard of hearing, noise is not your friend. People assume you may not hear a particular noise. That’s not necessarily true. We may hear noises, but not be able to distinguish BETWEEN different noises, recognize WHAT the noise is, or understand what DIRECTION a noise is coming from. Many noises are amplified if your hearing is not perfect. Other sounds are not heard at all, depending on the frequency level of the sound. And when there are many competing noises, they all tend to get jumbled together and we’re lost. If you try and talk to us, we have no idea what you are saying, assuming we know you are talking to us in the first place. Background music, TV blaring in the background, people talking to others, and traffic zipping by…. it’s all noise. If you’re like me, all you want to do is tune it out. Unfortunately, most of the time that’s impossible.
Airports are one of the noisiest places we have to face. In addition to all the other noises you get in a busy place, you have the loudspeaker announcements, and machines. And here you are, Mr. or Ms. Hard of Hearing, hoping to have a good flight to your destination, and hoping that you can hear and understand anyone who speaks to you. Even when you speak up and say that you are hard of hearing, it can be a challenge.
The Charlottetown Airport Authority is trying to make a stressful experience more manageable by giving awareness sessions to its staff. On February 27, 2018, Nancy MacPhee, Debra Leuty, and Annie Lee MacDonald were invited to give a seminar to outline best practices for transportation service providers who deal with customers who have a hearing loss of any kind.
17 participants were given an introduction to the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA) and how it can help in providing information and awareness concerning hard of hearing issues. All were given a copy of our Chapter’s booklet, “Pardon Me, What Did You Say?”, and had a chance to ask questions.
Nancy MacPhee gave a presentation on 10 tips for better communication, and all participants received a copy of these tips. The tips were compiled for airline staff by Nancy MacPhee and Brenda Porter, based on information from past CHHA workshops and conventions, and the National Speechreading Program.
The 10 Tips For Better Communication with the Hard of Hearing if you work in the Transportation Sector are:
- Make sure that you have the customer’s attention when conversing with him or her. (ie, a gentle tap on the shoulder or arm.}
- Identify who you are. (Display a name badge or airport ID)
- Look directly at the customer and be sure that your face can be seen clearly. (Be aware of lighting, don’t have any objects in your mouth, and don’t place your hands over your mouth. Men, please note that facial hair can hide lip movement.)
- Ask the customer what his or her preferred method of communication is, such as whether it would be helpful to communicate by writing (cell phones, tablets and computers may also be options. It’s always good to have a small notebook and pen available.) Also ask for tips, from the customer, on how to improve communication.
- Speak clearly in a normal tone of voice and at a moderate pace. Do not exaggerate speech and do not shout. Try not to use contractions. For example, “can’t” and “can” sound the same to a person who is hard of hearing.
- If you are not understood, do not keep repeating the same words, try rephrasing the information.
- Use facial expressions and gestures to help convey your meaning.
- If the customer is deaf and uses a sign language interpreter, always speak directly to the customer rather than the interpreter. Talk TO the customer, not about the customer.
- Remain positive, patient, and relaxed.
- Any matters discussed that are personal (such as disability related needs or medical information) should be done as privately as possible to avoid the chance of being overheard by other customers.
The presentation was positively received. Debra Leuty noted that “everyone seemed keenly interested in how to better provide this service to their customers. There were nods and looks of understanding from each of them. A few people at the back of the room asked me questions. One gentleman asked about the TDD phone, and others were curious about my lip reading. One lady got my attention via the gentlemen, and mouthed ‘thank you’, and I replied.”
Kudos to the Charlottetown Airport Authority for requesting this awareness training, and a big thank you goes out to our three CHHA PEI volunteers who willingly provided this seminar.
When serving customers who have disabilities, transportation service providers should remember to be accommodating, polite and considerate of their customers’ dignity, individuality, and desire for independence.
Do you have a transportation related anecdote or tip to share? Do you have a story or tip about hearing loss issues that are important to you? Comments can be made on this blog, or you can email us at email@example.com.
Next Chapter meeting: Tuesday, April 10, 2018 at North Tryon Presbyterian Church
© Daria Valkenburg