“Can Deaf people drive?”
“How can you survive in this world if you don’t know how to communicate?”
… and so on.
There are two bloggers who have captivated my attention – Lilo and Stacey, and I am honestly thrilled that they have taken time to share their story with us…
These are the most common questions we get asked throughout our lives. So, you can imagine how people react initially when they find out that we wanted to travel.
“Isn’t it too dangerous for you to travel?” Our parents’ utmost fears. They feared that since we aren’t capable of hearing certain surroundings, that there may be a risk to our lives. For instance, they feared that we wouldn’t be able to hear oncoming speeding cars.
The truth is: Deaf people can do anything, except hear. What people tend to forget or may not realise is that although we cannot hear, our other senses are heightened. We naturally developed other senses more strongly – in particular, our vision. We develop skills such as reading lips, expression and body language.
However, we put off travel for a long time because of the fears that society and the media instil into our conscious. One day, we both decided to face that challenge and prove to others that Deaf people are capable of travel. Thus, our blog, Deafinitely Wanderlust, was born.
Through our adventure, we conquered not only the language barriers but communication barriers as well. In comparison to Hearing people, we naturally picked up their local gestures faster because our voices are our hands. We can also distinguish through body language when locals are nervous, annoyed or even lying!
There was a time when Stacey wanted try to socialise with some Hearing travellers at this couch surfer’s place in South Korea. During the conversation, it was like playing ping pong to try and read lips back and forth. When Stacey missed what this other guest was saying, she asked, “Can you say that again please?” The traveller repeated the sentence but Stacey still missed her words. “Sorry?” Stacey asked. There was a sudden flinch on her eyebrow, her hands clenched and started knocking lightly on the table and she scratched her temple as if she was trying to hide her frustration. Stacey immediately could tell by observing small body language gestures that many Hearing people don’t often pay attention to. This observational skill is highly beneficial in any situation as a Deaf traveller.
Not only do we socialise with Hearing people, we also meet many Deaf people in different countries. Each country have their own sign language, therefore American Sign Language is not an universal sign language. Sometimes it can be a little similar or vastly different. Regardless of the difference, we still somehow understand each other. We use gestures, expression and body language to converse. Deaf people share mutual feelings and understanding, this is extraordinary. One of the perks as a Deaf traveller is that we do not only learn a culture but also a subculture, which is Deaf culture, as well. Deaf locals tell us what is it like to be Deaf in their country since each country view Deaf people differently. We learned one of the most common problems is lack of certain accommodation of Deaf community.
The lack of accomodation for Deaf people is not only a problem in undeveloped countries but everywhere. One of the most important accessibilities that we need is visual services. When travelling with no visual aids, we often have to ask local people what the man on the speaker said or when is the destination we need coming up. Generally, this problem is because of the lack of Deaf awareness, especially depending on how each country view Deaf people. For example, in America, Deaf is viewed as disability whereas in South Korea, it is viewed as handicap. Because of the lack of Deaf awareness, we often also encounter discrimination.
In Singapore, we were checking in for our flight to Thailand; the flight attendants were not willing to accommodate us when we told them that we needed communication through writing. “You CAN talk!” One of the flight attendants shouted and pointed at Lilo, “I saw you talking earlier! You can talk!” Imagine our frustration! They not only obstructed our way to communicate, but they took away our human rights. Fortunately, a man who was standing behind us, told one of the flight attendants, “They’re Deaf. You need to write, that’s how you guys are able to communicate,” PRAISE THIS MAN! It is so nice to see that there are some people out there that are aware and understand Deaf people and their human rights.
Like any other travellers, we have experienced so many great and unfortunate experiences ranging from getting stranded in Japan to bathing elephants. Even though, it hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies, it still pushed us to see that we were capable of doing anything. It helped us to gain confidence in facing these obstacles and learning from it. Most importantly, it made us even more proud of being Deaf.
Lieurene (also known as Lilo) and Stacey are two Deaf female adventurers, who won’t let being Deaf hinder them from travelling. Since they shared the same interests of wanderlust, they jumped on the opportunity to venture into the world. The pair want to challenge themselves to try overcome any obstacles that get in their way and learn from their experiences. Lilo and Stacey hope to inspire anyone to travel, regardless. Join me in following their experience…
What obstacles do you face whilst travelling?