January 10, 2019. When you travel and you have hearing loss, you need to have a lot of patience and a good sense of humour, as all kinds of adventures await you. Staying in a hotel has its own challenges. Will you hear someone knocking on the door? What happens if you want a wake-up call so you can catch an early flight? What if there is a fire and you don’t hear the alarm?
Everyone with hearing loss has a story to tell! One time, at an airport hotel in Winnipeg, I requested a wake-up call so I could catch an early morning flight. Unfortunately I slept in and didn’t hear the phone ringing. When I didn’t answer after several tries, the hotel staff came banging on the door. I didn’t hear that either. Finally, they opened the door with a master key and that finally woke me up. If I hadn’t let them know the evening before that I was hard of hearing when I checked in, I don’t know what they would have done! Luckily, I made my plane connection on time!
Recently I’ve been travelling in the USA and noticed that each hotel I stayed at had hearing accessibility rooms. Sometimes there were just a few rooms, and these tended to also be the rooms with handicapped access for those with physical disabilities. So I was surprised to see a large number of rooms only for hearing accessibility in a recently renovated Fairfield Inn in Christiansburg, Virginia.
The international sign of a broken ear is on the door of the accessible rooms, with a button to push instead of knocking. This sets off flashing lights in the room. When I went down to the front desk to commend the staff, the hotel desk proudly told me that “We also keep a list at the hotel desk, in case of an emergency.”
In West Knoxville, Tennessee, at another Fairfield Inn, we noticed several hearing accessible rooms here too, and when I went to the front desk to commend them on having these rooms available, the hotel’s General Manager, Trent Walker, came out to speak with me.
Mr. Walker explained that alterations to the Americans With Disability Act meant that 10% of the ‘inventory’ (ie rooms) of a new hotel or a renovated hotel had to be accessible for those with disabilities. In accordance with these regulations, most hotels now have each hotel room identified in Braille for those with vision loss. There are rooms accessible for those with physical disabilities, identified with a wheelchair sign on the door. And there are now rooms with accessibility for those with hearing loss, identified by the international broken ear sign. Some rooms do double duty as being accessible for those with physical limitations, as well as with hearing loss. As with the hotel in Christiansburg, there is a button on the door, which sets off flashing lights in the room to alert the person that someone is at the door.
As well, he explained that the hotel has two kits available to those with hearing loss. Each kit has a bed shaker alarm, a visual smoke alarm, and a phone that connects to the regular room phone and allows you to receive messages by text. “Did I want to see a kit?” I was asked. Of course I did!
Mr. Walker explained each item in the kit and invited me to ask for one next time I’m in the hotel. Now that I know about it, you can bet that I will.
And finally, we noticed hearing accessible rooms at a Residence Inn in Miramar Beach, Florida. Each room in the hotel also has the number listed in Braille. Note the button for the audiovisual door alert to trigger flashing lights in the room to let the occupant know someone is at the door.
A hearing accessible room at a Residence Inn in Miramar Beach, Florida. (Photo credit: Pieter Valkenburg)
Kudos to these hotels for making accessibility easier for people with hearing loss. If you travel and are in a hotel with this accommodation, please make sure you let the hotel staff know how much it is appreciated …. even if you don’t stay in one of these rooms yourself.
This experience has made me wonder if any hotels on Prince Edward Island have made accommodation for those with hearing loss! Does anyone know? If you’ve tried out one of the kits on your travels, please share your experience. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on our blog. You can also follow us on Twitter: @HearPEI.
© Daria Valkenburg