I welcome the opportunity to provide input on the passenger vessel access guidelines. As a deaf adult, accessibility on cruise ships as well as other venues are very important to me. I went on my first cruise last year and for the most part, I had a great time; however, when it came to accessibility, I was unable to fully enjoy the activities or know what was going on.
The cruiseline I used would tell you that they provided access for me and for my friends. They provided interpreters who were obviously not qualified to interpret and obviously did the job because they got to go on a free cruise. They even said it was like a vacation. Everything they did was not up to the standards of certified interpreters that I am used to -- they had worn inappropriate clothing, team interpreting techniques were poor, did not make themselves available to interpret when needed (even at dinner), no preparation for interpreting shows (lights, seating), . As a result, we were unable to go to the shows, unable to hear announcements, and because of their lack of professionalism and poor interpreting skills, we refused to use them for some of the excursions we went on and had to help each other out which worked out fine, but we all were on vacation and should not have to do that. It is clear that cruiselines need to be educated about qualified interpreters and revise their process of securing interpreters.
We did get a TTY and bedside alarm in the room, but still did not get anything to alert us to horns, no captioned TV, etc. This posed a real safety issue for us because we are unable to hear anything while asleep. Also, every time we needed something, we would have to walk all the way to the front desk because we could not reach the front desk with the TTY. In some cases, we would try to find the guy who was assigned to our cabin. The issue of assistive devices wound up being not only a safety issue, but an inconvenience.
As a result of my experiences, I fully understand the complaints hearing impaired individuals had up until my trip. It is imperative that the cruiselines become more accessible to allow for the full enjoyment that hearing individuals have. I will not let the lack of services keep me from enjoying another cruise, but it will not stop me from trying to educate cruiselines how important it is to provide access to all persons, not just the hearing impaired.
President, Texas Chapter of the A.G. Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing