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Deaf traveller, Angela Lynn on the go
By Pauline Mackenzie

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How has your passion for travel enriched your life and broadened your perspective as a Deaf individual?

When I took my first overseas trip to Oahu, it sparked my love for travel. I wanted more than what Phoenix, Arizona, had to offer. During that trip, I told my parents that I wanted to explore the world.

This phrase became my inspiration as I grew up. It fueled my passion for travel as a Deaf person, helping me break down language barriers and connect with people from different cultures. Travelling has opened my eyes to new perspectives and taught me that kindness and curiosity can bridge any gap.

I’m grateful for this journey, and I look forward to sharing more of it with the world.

How do you navigate airports and public transportation systems in foreign countries where sign language may not be widely understood?

I’m passionate about travelling, whether it’s to countries with emerging economies or those with more established ones, and whether I’m going alone or with someone. I always prepare ahead of time to have successful and enjoyable trips. I’m really thankful for smartphone technology because it helps me travel anywhere and communicate with people in their language. I have a vivid memory of when I attended the World Federation of the Deaf Congress conference in Paris, France, in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic began. I was really pleased that I knew French because it allowed me to communicate using writing and gestures, even though I wasn’t confident in speaking French, which is not my first language. The same situation occurred when I travelled to Alexandria and Cairo in Egypt, as well as Doha in Qatar. I had some knowledge of Arabic when it came to reading and writing, but speaking it was a challenge. My ability to speak was limited to English, not Arabic or French. It might sound a bit unusual, but it worked for me. When I’m at airports and using public transportation in foreign countries where sign language isn’t widely understood, it can be tough. In these situations, I rely on writing, gestures and basic sign language to communicate. It’s important to plan ahead, learn some basic local phrases, and be patient when asking for help from airport or transportation staff.  Sign languages are not universal and vary widely from country to country, and sometimes even within countries. By definition, there is an International Sign Language that Deaf travellers use. It is a simplified, flexible communication tool, unlike formal, structured sign languages. What’s really interesting about international sign language is how unique it is. People from different countries don’t use their native sign languages; instead, we use a mix of signs and visual concepts to get our messages across clearly. It’s a wonderful thing because it breaks down language barriers that spoken languages can sometimes create or require extra gestures to understand each other. 

Do you travel solo? If so, share that experience with us. Do you find solo travel as a Deaf person overly challenging?

Yes, I do travel solo, and I find it to be a rewarding experience.  I also like having company for more adventure. While there can be challenges, such as communication barriers, solo travel allows me to be more independent and self-reliant. It has helped me build confidence and adaptability, and I’ve met incredible people along the way who have gone out of their way to assist me. Once, I missed my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sabah, Malaysia due to a visa issue. It took me two hours, with help from locals, to find the visa processing place. This experience taught me to always check visa requirements. This mishap happened on my way to Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia.

Are there specific travel destinations that you find more accommodating for Deaf individuals, and why? I can’t speak for everyone, but I do know that some travel destinations roll out the red carpet for Deaf travellers. It really depends on what your travel goals are and what kind of accommodations you need. Countries with vibrant Deaf communities and solid sign language support, like the United States, Canada and some parts of Europe, tend to be more welcoming and accessible. Plus, places with top-notch technology and communication systems usually make it easier for Deaf travellers to get around.

What technology or apps do you find most helpful for facilitating communication and navigation while travelling? 

In my experience with accessible travel, I’ve always had a world of resources at my fingertips, thanks to my phone. Technology and apps have really changed the game for Deaf travellers. I find communication apps like Google Translate, text-to-speech apps, and messaging apps like WhatsApp to be incredibly helpful.  Sometimes, I reach out to Deaf organizations for more information or the assistance I need. I also network with fellow Deaf individuals, those who are hard of hearing, Deafblind, Children of Deaf Adults (CODA), sign language interpreters and even some hearing people who know a lot about resources for Deaf accessibility. I receive wonderful support and learn a lot from the apps they provide on Google Play or the Apple Store. But let me be clear, I’m a strong advocate for inclusion, and these apps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to accessibility for people with different needs. This technology is only the beginning, and I look forward to a future where I don’t have to search for accessibility, it’s just there, ensuring equality for all. Sometimes, I dislike having to seek out special needs services. It makes me wonder if there’s a similar service for hearing people when they enter the Deaf world. It’s just a thought on my part about accessibility.

What strategies or tools do you use to bridge language barriers and communicate effectively with locals?

To bridge language barriers in Las Vegas, a vibrant city of entertainment, I aim to advocate for inclusion. Despite its flashy exterior, Las Vegas doesn’t always live up to its diversity promise. I use various methods to communicate, like the saying, music knows no barriers possible.  I recall a funny incident with my ex-fiancé when he thought I needed constant help. While shopping, I went alone and sought assistance from the staff when I needed it. His surprise was evident, but I’m used to being independent, thanks to my mom’s teachings when I was young. I don’t like to be too dependent on others. I’ll seek help when needed. I am eager to advocate for inclusion, emphasizing the importance of ensuring accessible facilities for people of all abilities, thereby creating an environment that equally serves everyone. Las Vegas promotes diversity and inclusion, but I can see that there’s still room for improvement. Many people from around the world come to Las Vegas, so I want to always make an effort to break down barriers by simply letting them know I’m Deaf and making it easy for them to work with me, ask questions, or follow through with whatever is needed. It’s about making accessibility a reality for everyone.

Can you share any memorable experiences of positive interactions with locals or other travellers who were accommodating and understanding of your deafness during your travels?

I’ve been fortunate to have many heartwarming experiences with locals and fellow travellers who showed great care and love for my Deafness. Some individuals went the extra mile to communicate with gestures and expressions, making me feel deeply cared for and fully embraced. These interactions have strengthened my belief in the goodness of people worldwide.

Are there any cultural or etiquette considerations you’ve learned while travelling that are particularly important for Deaf individuals?

When exploring new destinations, it’s crucial to keep cultural norms and etiquette related to Deaf individuals in mind. Some cultures may frown upon staring or pointing, while others might embrace curiosity and open communication. The golden rule? Approach each scenario with respect and a generous dose of patience, as attitudes toward Deafness can vary as much as the colours of a global palette.

The Angela Lynn Show. Tell us a bit about that. Will you say your love for travel has influenced your talk show? 

My journey is driven by three key factors. First, during my time at Gallaudet University, I was inspired by David Simmons, who hails from South Africa and served as the SBG President. He encouraged me to become a TV anchor for SBG TV News, and his support transformed my self-esteem. I realized my hidden talents, thanks to his belief in me. Additionally, Robert Eller, who hails from Toronto, Canada, played a pivotal role in my journey. He encouraged me to take on an acting role of a roommate in the student production Raving for One at Gallaudet University. This experience opened my eyes to additional hidden talents I never knew I had and gave me hope for the path that would lead me to The Angela Lynn Show. My international experience in Malaysia further broadened my horizons and inspired me to break stereotypes when related to abilities. As an educator, I received numerous awards and became an advocate for various reasons. One of my primary motivations was to show hearing parents with children with abilities that their journey need not be restricted. If you allow them to discover and grow, as I did, you’ll find that striving to be normal isn’t the beautiful answer. What’s truly beautiful is embracing who you are as a person on your unique journey. That’s where I learned some of life’s most valuable lessons. I wanted to demonstrate to the world that being Deaf or a person with abilities doesn’t always limit you. I believe that God has gifted each of us with tools to learn and that we must all work together as humans. That’s how I perceive it, and it’s a belief that has shaped my journey. Now, with The Angela Lynn Show, I share my experiences as a Deaf traveller, promote Deaf culture, and discuss accessibility and travel. My love for travel enriches the show, connecting me with people worldwide who share these interests. Being recognized as the voice of inclusion continues to help me to remove barriers for people with abilities, creating a more inclusive world for all.

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