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hazards on commercial airplanes, contrary to the apparent view of

Tele-Trip.

Is it that the life of a blind person is less

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against the blind in insurance was not at that time specifically

prohibited by any law or regulation.

In fact, it was partly this

incident which led to the state insurance department's

promulgation of a broad anti-insurance discrimination mandate,

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outlawed in most parts of our country because of the current

status of inadequate laws and regulations.

Mr. Chairman, I have stated earlier that the major problem

we face in the travel and tourism industry is the lack of a

comprehensive, consistent, and clear federal policy.

The laws,

to the extent that they exist at all are fragmented and subject

to widely varying interpretations.

For a long time, there was

considerable dispute as to whether discrimination on the basis of

blindness or handicap would be prohibited by Section 404 (b) of

the Federal Aviation Act. If that statute could be so interpreted (as many of us thought it could) this would be a

fairly broad nondiscrimination mandate applicable throughout the

commercial aviation industry. However, Section 404 (b) no longer exists. Arguments over whether this statute would give the CAB

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aviation or other forms of interstate commerce, is fragmented and

diffused among the several agencies who have responsibilities for

distributing federal assistance to commercial carriers.

Moreover, most hotels, restaurants, and other places of public

accommodation or amusement remain completely outside of the scope

of Section 504 or any other federal law bearing directly upon the

question of discrimination on the basis of blindness or handicap.

So the point must surely be driven home that there is no

comprehensive consistent and clear federal policy to ban

unreasonable and detrimental treatment against us in the travel

and tourism industry.

Mr. Chairman, we hope these hearings can be not only an

opportunity to exchange information but also a chance to make a

new beginning on charting a course for future federal policy in this area. Our experience, as I mentioned earlier, with the

state White Cane Laws, should be looked upon as an example and a

model for federal action.

You may be assured, Mr. Chairman, that

we in the National Federation of the Blind are prepared to share

the details of this experience and the knowledge we have gained

35-248 O - 84 - 8

Mr. Florio. Thank you. Ms. DiPietro.

STATEMENT OF LORAINE DIPIETRO Ms. DıPIETRO. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. My name is Loraine DiPietro. I am director of the National Information Center on Deafness at Gallaudet College, which has for 120 years been the world's only liberal arts college for deaf students. Gallaudet is nationally and internationally known as a comprehensive center for deafness education, professional training, research, public service, and advocacy in the area of deafness.

I am appearing before you today not only as a professional in the field of deafness but also as a hearing-impaired consumer, a user of travel services.

I am going to digress from my prepared statement and summarize some of the information in my paper. I will be talking about my perceptions of the accessibility of travel services for the 16 million American citizens who have some degree of hearing impairment.

I will speak primarily about the 2 million Americans who are deaf, that is, cannot hear speech well enough to understand it, but in speaking about that I am also considering the 7 million Americans who have severe enough losses of hearing that they can't understand speech well, and another 7 million who do have some hearing impairment, and may misunderstand spoken messages.

Hearing-impaired travelers are like any other, and whatever mode of transportation they are using, wherever they stay, wherever they visit, they can't hear everyday speech. Neither can they hear alarms nor other sounds which signal the warnings. Because the communication barrier pervades the whole question of travel by hearing-impaired travelers, my discussion will include that, but the effects of the communication breakdown are obvious in issues of accessibility, issues of safety, and issues of convenience that other travelers take for granted. I will look first at issues of accessibility.

Simple, direct access to visitors bureaus, travel agents, hotels, motels, airlines, buses, and trains is difficult for many hearing-impaired people, just to get basic travel information about schedules and to make reservations. Some of these hotels and motels do have toll-free TDD's so a deaf person with such a device can call directly. The same with some bus services. Amtrak has one, and about six or seven airlines do have toll-free TDD's.

Another question of access. Most of us expect when we travel to get the information that is provided over loudspeakers or on planes, information about a change in gate, a delay in time. Deaf people have missed flights because they didn't hear an announcement about change of gate. Television monitors that are close to gates are very helpful, because they provide the printed information that deaf people need. But if you are sitting at a gate where there is no monitor and you are not aware that there will be a change, you won't know to go to read the information.

In-flight information about rerouting, for example, can be very helpful. Otherwise a deaf person may arrive at a completely unexpected airport and then have to rearrange ticketing and scheduling from that point. The communication problem interferes a great deal with that rerouting process at the new airport.

Let's take the example of a deaf person traveling with a TDD. It is wonderful to use, but it is hard to call a hotel to get reservations from a direct line at the airport, because the hotel won't have a TDD. If you go to Travelers Aid for help, you see a sign that says "If you need assistance pick up the phone." They probably don't have a TDD to answer you. These are little things, but they total up to big things.

As tourists, travelers visiting historic sites and other places of interest may not have access to the information typically provided on taped programs, or by tour guides. The Smithsonian has done some wonderful things with providing interpreters for prearranged groups of deaf people who sign, but there are other deaf people who don't sign, and there may not be print material for them.

The print equivalents of the taped programs of tours are necessary, in public historic sites and museums. Plaques mounted outside of rooms in historic houses can convey much of the same information that the tour guide in the room does. On bus tours, the same problems occur, so printed itineraries would be helpful for any hearing-impaired travelers.

ISSUES OF SAFETY

Deaf people cannot hear fire alarms in hotels. They can't use the emergency phones in the elevators. How do they deal with situations where they are in a subway train stopped underground and there is no light? How do they make a call from a roadside emergency phone when they are stranded because of car problems on the highway?

ISSUES OF CONVENIENCE Deaf people cannot take advantage of wake-up calls in hotels. They can't use phones from their hotel rooms if there is no TDD at the switchboard. In my travels I generally carry a portable amplifier with me, because if I try to use the hotel room phone I would not be able to hear, if it didn't have amplification.

Deaf people can't expect room service or a porter or a visitor without making a small adjustment, that is, leaving the door open. I believe that, yes, architectural changes can be made, but the industry can very easily provide some portable devices that would solve some of these convenience problems, that is, flashing-light alarm clocks, flashing-light door signals, a strobelight alarm that is sensitive to the sound frequency of a fire alarm. Those things can be installed at the time that a deaf person registers.

We have had several people discuss the kinds of overgeneralizations that are handicaps to others. Misinformation can be handled by training. Deaf people have been led by the hand to their seats on planes. They have been brought wheelchairs, when they identified their deafness to customer service representatives. Sometimes they don't identify their deafness to avoid this situation. In other instances if they do identify their deafness they might be forgotten because deafness is not visible.

There are 16 million hearing-impaired Americans. All of them use travel services of some kind. I have highlighted only a few of the problems they face repeatedly in travel settings. I think that the concept of an information center or a place where people can call to get information on what is available is very viable and necessary for deaf people as well as all other disabled travelers.

Thank you.
[Testimony resumes on p. 69.]
[Ms. DiPietro's prepared statement follows:]

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