Living Life Independently: Getting Around – Blog Series

Monique Les

While major vacations are super awesome and fun (check out How to Travel like a HOH for tips!), most of us can’t afford to live the high-end luxury life 24/7. This week’s Living Life Independently series focuses more on day to day types of transportation. A few major modes of transportation will be included – because, some of us might actually go on to have a career that requires coast to coast travel.

Public Transit – Bus or Skytrain

If you’re a student and broke (or super frugal), chances are you’ll find yourself on public transit. Most of the time no one is really paying attention to you (hello smartphone addiction!), and it can be awkward to ask someone for help if you’re not sure when your next stop is. The following are a few tips that might make your trip a bit easier.

Photo credit: Flickr

  1. Research, research, research. When taking the bus/skytrain for the first time, I actually counted how many stops there would be before I reached my destination. This helps me have a mental awareness of my route.
  2. If there are no ‘maps’ or ‘announcement’ boards, often in digital form, use your eyes! Most skytrain stations have very visible signs. For buses, I suggest you look up the cross street before your stop so you get an idea when to push the stop button.
  3. Stay close to the bus driver if you can. I found it helpful to tell the bus driver that I had a hearing loss and to signal to me when my stop was up.
  4. If you have a smartphone, use google maps! I was on the Canada line recently and noticed that it even tracked my movement even while on the skytrain.
  5. If people are staring at you because you have your hearing assistive devices on, do what my grandmother’s friend told me to do: stare at their shoes. They won’t know what to do with themselves LOL.


Private Transit – Taxis, Uber/Lyft, Rideshares

Most places in BC don’t have Uber/Lyft or a Rideshare program. However, I figure that there may be readers who visit major metropolitan cities that have this service. One of the major issues for me as a hard of hearing person is calling for a taxi/other ride program. Thankfully most of these services have apps! For example, when I had to catch a 6 am flight out, I booked my taxi online the night before, and they texted us when they were close by. How convenient is that!?

Photo credit: Pixabay

When communicating with your ride service provider, I find it helpful to have the address printed out on a piece of paper. Now, I don’t have experience when communicating via ASL with rider service providers, and would like to hear your experiences on that! There have been instances during a ride where the driver likes to converse with me, the passenger. Most of the time I can catch what they’re saying, but if the driver has a heavy accent – I just gently explain that I need a bit of a rest after a very long day of listening (beats having to explain the hearing loss part, especially if it’s only a short drive!).

Your personal vehicle

If you’re 16 and over, odds are you may have access (or not…) to a family car or if you’re lucky enough, your own vehicle! Whenever I drive alone, I can control how much noise there is in the car. Though with the rising prices of gas, the likelihood of having a high occupancy vehicle is inevitable. If I’m the driver, I let everyone know that they can’t be shouting like madmen (especially if one has kids…) and the music will be on at a reasonable decibel level.  Again, visual acuity is important here! There have been times when I did not hear ambulance sirens behind me – only to notice the behaviour of other drivers behind me (pulling over, etc), or flashing red lights.

I have had the opportunity to witness a friend of mine who drives with his FM system. Prior to taking off, he asked me to wear a microphone (and of course, I was happy to do so!). If you’re an avid FM system user, that may be something you can consider.  There are also conference microphone systems that you can use as a driver, if you have a hard time understanding passengers behind you. I often will only answer questions if we’re stopped at a light or stuck in traffic – simply because that’s what works for me. Find a system that you’re happy with!

Photo Courtesy: Wikifiles (but honestly, how many of us can afford this car?!)

However, if I’m a passenger in a family car, I will most often request that I sit in the front passenger seat. Why? For starters, it’s easier to talk to the driver, as well as any other passengers behind me.

Parents: if your child is still under the age of 12 and unable to sit in the front of the car – consider putting an extra large mirror underneath your interior car mirror so your child can read your signs or read your lips, whichever works best!

Air Travel – for those who like to rack up frequent flyer miles

A number of you will eventually go on to do solo travelling – this section will be brief as we already covered a bunch of tips in How to Travel like a HOH. What we didn’t mention was having to deal with what happens AFTER disembarking the plane. That could be a horrifying or easy experience, depends on which airport you’re at. Like taking public transit, always do your research – I remember I would study maps of London Heathrow’s airport so I have some ‘bearings’ when I first arrive. It made it easier for me to figure out where to catch shuttles, the tube, etc. Don’t be afraid to let airport staff know that you have a hearing loss – especially if you find yourself in Europe. I guarantee you if you do this in Europe, you’ll be treated like royalty (even skipping the line at museums!). Use the tips above wherever you travel, they are quite interchangeable and remember: enjoy the ride there!

Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures