Sunday, June 22, 2008

2008 HLAA Convention Reno Recap

So much happened during my trip to Reno for the HLAA convention that I don't know where to start! I barely got my act together and got everything situated so I could leave for ten days. I have a husband that can pack a suitcase in 15 minutes but it takes me several days! I actually had to pack for two different locations for two different kinds of weather so that made it more challenging, especially when I could only take one suitcase. Airlines are now charging $25 or more for extra bags that are checked.

My flights were good and I really didn't have any major problems except the usual stress of wondering whether I'm at the right gate or on the right plane, etc. I have a love/hate relationship with airlines and flying. I love to fly but get very tired trying to make sure I know what is going on. I usually travel with Steve, who knows what gate to go to, where it is, when we need to be there, etc. so he usually tells me what is going on. When I am alone, it’s a different story. I am on “alert” and am constantly watching the monitors in airports regarding my flights. I cannot understand the loud and garbled messages being said over the intercoms so I just go right to the gate and let someone know that I can’t hear what they are saying. And ask them to let me know when it is time to board the plane. And they usually let me board first along with the first class boarders. I found out that airlines like to board deaf and hard of hearing persons first so that they stewards/stewardesses know where they are.

Airports are a source of frustration for me even if I can hear with my cochlear implants. The announcements at the gates are usually very loud and garbled and extremely difficult to understand, even for those with normal hearing. The people with normal hearing standing around me waiting to board planes seem to have difficulty understanding what is being said, too. They aren't much better on the planes when the stewardesses make the "flight speech." I'd like to see if there is a way to get airlines to put visual information at gates and on planes. The technology is out there and I intend to see if I can get something in motion. I have a “plan” and hope to make a difference with the major airports in Tennessee. This would benefit everyone, not just the deaf and hard of hearing. I’d like to make a difference with ALL airports but if I start small, maybe the others will follow suit. . . (I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport as I write this and the loudspeaker is BLARING in my ears!) Even the workers at the gate are putting their fingers in their ears during the announcements!

Anyway, as I was standing in line at the Salt Lake City airport wondering if I was at the right gate, a lady standing next to me asked if it was the flight to Reno. I told her I wasn’t sure because I couldn’t hear. She immediately asked me if I was going to Reno for the HLAA convention because she was too! Her name is Kathy and she was from SLC. We had a nice chat before we boarded the plane. And then, the lady who sat next me to me started making small talk and I quickly learned that she was going to Reno, also! The fun was already starting before we got there! I love meeting new people, especially those who understand the trials and tribulations of living with a hearing loss.

I got to Reno thirty minutes before Jennifer did so I got my bags and waited for her. And was at security when she and the Nashville gang got off their plane! I knew most of them but she introduced me to them anyway. What a great group of people! We all took the shuttle to the hotel, which was only about 15 minutes away. As soon as we walked into the Grand Sierra Hotel, we were in CASINO overload! I’ve never seen so many gambling machines and tables in my life (have never been to Las Vegas, either). Jennifer and I got checked in our room, which was absolutely gorgeous. See pictures below. . . I quickly learned that Abbie, our third roommate was having a “daymare” flight to Reno and was flying all over the country instead of her original nonstop flight to Reno. You can read about her experience here. I felt so bad for her because this was her FIRST time flying and I knew that she would have trouble hearing and understanding announcements, especially with last minute changes. She was supposed to arrive in Reno at 11 a.m. the day we got there but ended up in Houston, Phoenix, Los Angeles, & Alaska (of all places) before arriving after 7 p.m. (You can read about her experience HERE!)

Since Jennifer was at a dinner meeting, I met Abbie at the hotel entrance when her shuttle arrived. All I saw when she got off the plane was the silhouette of her body and outstretched arms because the setting sun was behind her and blocking her face. But, there was no mistaking who she was! And we were so glad to see each other! I quickly helped her with her bags and got her registered at the front desk. When we boarded the elevator, the button for our floor (the 17th floor) would not work! So we had to go up to the 18th and come back down!

Later, we met the rest of the incoming folks downstairs at Starbucks. We spent some time getting reacquainted with friends from last year and making new ones and taking pictures. I went to bed around midnight (even with the three hour time difference!) while Jennifer and Abbie stayed up later talking, etc. To be continued. . . (Jennifer has written several entries about our weekend and pretty much said it all! Go here and read her version. I will update soon!)

8 comments:

Brad said...

Hi MOM!

There IS an airline that includes a video (that is closed-captioned) at the beginning of every flight that is the "flight speech." I can't remember which airline it is. It is just a video and the stewardess "acts" it out during.

-b

p.s. You need to have more pictures of my dog up here! I miss him

David said...

I wish you great success in your quest to get better information to the HOH at airports and on planes. I have yet to fly since my hearing loss last fall, and quite frankly dread doing so.
Keep us updated in your project.
David

Laurie said...

Brad,

Thanks! I know there are some airlines that are more up to date with captioning but many still have a long way to go. When you find out what airline that is, let me know!

Love you! MOM

Ok, I'll put up a picture of Leon!

Laurie said...

David,

Don't let your hearing loss keep you from flying. Just be sure to ask questions. People are usually glad to help. And the more deaf and hard of hearing that ask questions, maybe the airlines will "wake up" and do something about it.

I do have a contact in Knoxville that has connections with the Knoxville airport and with a State Senator and he is going to set up some meetings for me.

I'll keep everyone posted!

Shari said...

That would be great if airlines would provide cc worldwide. Can you imagine, in different languages? That would help foreigners. Just a thought. :)

It's been interesting to see three different sides to each of your stories about HLAA. :)

Abbie said...

I didn't even get started on the fact that the movies are not closed captioned! I can't believe that was only the first day :) This entire trip was a journey of a lifetime and I am so glad that it was done with you two :)

Sheila said...

Hi, Laurie.
Gerry and I flew United to Reno (via Denver) and the flight speech WAS on video with closed captioning. All the best on getting ALL airports and airlines to do this.

Sheila

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie,
1995 my 2nd HLAA Conv and since my vision changed I have made the request for someone to walk me from the curb to the gate... not perfect. I have many war stories.... I did learn from one session at HLAA 2004 Conv. It is the "airport's responsibility" to help us. Not the airline. Also learned when I step on the plane. I tell them in big voice "I am vision and hearing impaired; I am sitting in 16 B." Just so they know where I am!! So with that information I am ready or sassy!!!! Feel like I have been teaching them since 1995. Love it!!!! My trip home from Reno was so so..... Had a stopover in Kansas City before I flew to FL. They changed flight attendents. I was just too lazy to tell them about my problems. I should've told them. Knowing I had a long day. I got home okay. The whole system is not a one size fits all. We have to deal with many many different employee's personality. Especially when we have the invisible problem. You mentioned on your flight, that they let deaf and HOH on the plane with wheelchairs. That was totally new to me. I have been using my white cane since 2006. That been a major symbol that I have a problem. I love all this new information. They should hire me to test all the airports. Keep us updated on your airport. Molly CC