Traveling Insights from a deaf Traveler

Have you ever thought what it would feel like to travel the world in silence?

For Nehama Rogozen, an avid traveler who happens to be deaf, her journeys around the world have not been in total silence because of Cochlear Implant technology. Nehama points out that she is deaf but not Deaf with a capital D and she explains the difference between those terms during our interview.

Nehama is a former Peace Corp volunteer who has traveled to far corners of the world. The cochlear implant and her ability to read lips has given her a slight advantage but there are other challenges she’s faced as a deaf traveler and some of those have involved things we often take for granted.

“Every one of us is blind and deaf until our eyes are opened to our fellowmen, until our ears hear the voice of humanity.”

Helen Keller

There are other concerns like safety, accommodations, the unfamiliarity with cochlear technology and communications in non-English speaking countries that Nehama has had to navigate.

Our interview with Nehama is thought-provoking and insightful. She says that the deaf and hard of hearing community is diverse. Some think that the term “people with hearing loss” is inclusive and efficient, but it isn’t because individuals who were born deaf or hard of hearing do not think of themselves as having lost their hearing.

Join us as we learn what it is like to travel the world as a deaf person.

Guests: 


Read a transcript

The following transcription was made with artificial intelligence and is not 100% accurate. Nehama (00:09): I have friends with other disabilities who might use a wheelchair or some other sort of like assistive equipment. And they need to know if they’re going to have power or like charge their battery. If the shares the equipment, like they need to know what the fourth are like all of this information that maybe if that was just given automatically and books could use that information, um, rather than having to do the legwork. Tonya (00:38): That’s Nehama, Rogozen a traveler who happens to be deaf, but not deaf with a capital D as Nehama will explain. There’s a difference. Welcome. I’m Tonya Fitzpatrick Ian (00:54): And I’m Ian Fitzpatrick. And this is world footprints. Nehama Rogozen is a former peace Corps volunteer and avid traveler who has traveled to far corners of the world as a deaf person. She has a cochlear implant and she reads lips. But despite those advantages nahamah says that there are many challenges. She faces as a deaf traveler. Many of those are the simple things we often take for granted. Tonya (01:22): The deaf and hard of hearing community is diverse. Something. The term people with hearing loss is inclusive, inefficient, but it isn’t because individuals who are born deaf or hard of hearing do not think of themselves as having lost their hearing. So we asked Nehama what term is inclusive, inappropriate. Nehama (01:46): I usually use the term death and there’s a differentiation between deaths out with them, but Rick hasty. And then I pick hasty. So I put case D indicating the deaf community, which is not something that I am Haida. So I am lowercase D deaf, and that I have used technology to access sound and language for my entire life. Um, I don’t know if I’m language, um, and the time hearing impaired is going out of use because it implies something negative with the word impaired. So folks like just say hard of hearing, but personally, I use the word Ian (02:29): With her ability to capture sound through technology. Now, Hama has been able to navigate many countries most off the beaten path. Nehama (02:38): I have been to more than 20 countries. None of them are in Europe, which is actually something I’m pretty proud of. Uh, because when you travel in Europe, you have to like racking up the countries. But I have been to a lot of places that are more, I find flying off the map tick, you know, a little bit more effort to get to, and to travel around and Tonya (03:00): Traveling to countries where different languages spoken, presents its own set of challenges. We asked nahamah about the concerns and challenges. She faces. Nehama (03:11): Something that I have to think about is safety, especially in staying in hotels or really anywhere where I stay, where I take my cochlear implants off. And I can’t hear a single thing. So if there’s a fire first, an emergency, even if just, you know, somebody is knocking on the door to clean up the next morning, I don’t know. And I’ve had some uncomfortable situations where, you know, a hotel staff member has walked in and I’m still there. Um, and it’s also just something that I’ve tried to explain to folks, because I think in an English speaking country, like the U S with books are for better or worse, more familiar with different types of disability, I think go to a hotel and I can say to them, Hey, like I’m deaf. Like, please don’t come in. Unless, you know, I opened the door for you and they can make a note of that and the room that has crashing alarms and things like that. And then other countries, that’s not necessarily the case. And in the Philippines, when I was a peace Corps volunteer, my host family just didn’t really seem to understand what my coconut and plants kind of do a one off that I couldn’t hear anything. So there was a lot of them thinking that I was ignoring them if they were knocking on the door and I wasn’t responding, but I just literally didn’t know that they went knocking. Tonya (04:37): We asked Nehama if her safety concerns are heightened, when she travels so low Nehama (04:43): As a woman, I am always scared to some degree, anywhere I am in the world at night, walking around alone, I’ve done a lot of solo Tavo and I really love solo Tavo events, but I am also aware that there’s going to be a level of fear and anxiety ties in with those types of adventures that are not going to be passed on if I have somebody else, especially a man with me. So, and not necessarily being able to hear somebody come up behind me, or somebody’s trying to communicate with me or warn me of something. That’s another layer on top of what it means to be a woman chattering. And another ear then I’ve had is that my implants look possibly, like there could be some sort of like fancy Bluetooth headphones or something. And what if somebody comes up and grabs them off my head, it’s not going to help them. Once they realize they have this device, they can’t use within don’t even recognize, but these are very expensive and you need to replace and champion. If where I can’t hear it is terrifying. Um, so thankfully it’s never happened, but I will oftentimes wear my hair wet hat in a way where you can’t quite see what’s behind my ears, just as like a protective mechanism. Ian F. (06:14): How often have you waited at an airport gate just to find the gate has changed, there was no announcement, or you didn’t hear it and you nearly missed your flight. We’ve had that experience traveling to Iceland. Yeah. We asked Nehama if she has ever missed a flight because of an unannounced schedule change Nehama (06:33): That has happened. I have definitely missed flights before. I think it’s the type of situation where something happens. I’m not going to let it happen again. Like I’m going from that 60. I am. And I remember nothing of flight because I was sort of dozing off and I was, and I couldn’t quite understand. And now it’s my intent. Apparently my name had been called several times, but they mispronounced it and I didn’t realize that it was me. They were calling for, I was really tired. I didn’t like that. Like every one of my army had just disappeared to board the flight. Um, so ever since I’ve made sure that I know I identify myself to the folks at the counter. I said, Hey, like if the gate changes, if something happens with the freight, I might not understand the announcement and sitting over here, what you just come tell me, and that has been successful. Ian F. (07:26): Now you’ve had to advocate for yourself as a deaf traveler. What does that mean? Or in terms of what that, what that requires of you? Nehama (07:39): Good question. Um, I, haven’t always been as comfortable advocating for myself as I am now in my thirties. I still come up against situations where I’m not sure how to advocate for myself. A big one has been doing COVID with people wearing masks. I rely on lip reading a lot, and it’s very hard to advocate for my father during this unprecedented public health emergency to say, I can’t hear you. I need you to repeat that again and take your mask off for a second, write it down, text it to me, whatever. So I think, you know, advocating for myself really just means leaning into the situation and figuring out what works. And I think having lived in so many different cultures, the way you advocate for yourself also needs to be cautiously appropriate. Like the way that I might stand up at home and make a fuss. If my access needs IPA mat could happen to be shortened somewhere outside. I need to be really conscious of what is happening around me. And sometimes that means realizing that I’m not going to get the access that I need. Like I’m going to have to sit and say, and it’s not appropriate to disrupt whatever is going on. I don’t particularly need this piece of information and that’s okay. Ian (09:05): She says that she has never learned sign language. So we wondered how she communicates with others in the deaf community who actively use Nehama (09:14): The thing is just so many different types of signs that even if I knew AFL go into another country, doesn’t mean that I would be able to communicate with deaf people who you need, whatever they’re real call, sign languages. And I think that folks and folks with Millie any sort of communication challenge are really good at communicating in other ways. And I think my comfort with trying to, um, use like nonverbal communication, body language, all of these things has actually helped me when it comes to being in countries where there are different languages being spoken. Um, I can just sort of, I don’t know even how to explain this, but sometimes I am trying to figure out a situation in another country where we don’t have a common language and I can just kind of feel into it and understand how to communicate and what the answer is. And like what needs to happen with a fluency that I think hearing folks don’t have because they haven’t had to practice those Ian F. (10:23): Being. So well-traveled, you I’m sure have developed a perspective on what’s working in the travel industry, what isn’t working from your perspective, what are some of the things that broadly speaking are good in terms of how the travel industry is accommodating and meeting the needs of deaf people and where is it really falling short? Nehama (10:52): I think over all the travel agency really, or the travel world pack, the travel world really depends on people speaking up for themselves and, um, identifying what their needs and accommodations are. I don’t feel a lot of proactive outreach or a lot of proactive Shang, uh, communication. Um, I have friends with other disabilities who might use a wheelchair or some other sort of like assistive equipment. And they need to know if they’re going to have power for like charge their battery, if the shares the equipment, like they need to know what the forums are like, all of this information that it’d be great if that was just given automatically. And folks could use that information, um, rather than having to do the Lifework for themselves. Ian (11:47): Oh, clear implant technology that nahamah benefits from is not available in every country. So we wondered how Ian F. (11:54): She is received by people who are not familiar with cochlear implants. Nehama (11:59): Yeah. It was really difficult, fascinating, intriguing, and difficult when I lived in the peace Corps, because I did have interaction with folks who were staff, who did not have access to the same equipment or speech therapy or opportunity for iPad. So there was, um, one of my coworkers and the Philippines, her daughter was staff and not that much older than me. And she was always just so curious, like what if my daughter had had those, can I look at that? I’m like you do so well. Like you show you really tough. Like you’re nothing like my daughter. And that was always really hard to reconcile because it’s true. Her daughter didn’t have access to what I have access to and things are changing in the Philippines, especially, um, there’s a lot more access to this type of technology now, but this definitely a different, a different environment in terms of what’s available or encouraged for people Ian F. (13:05): Now between the peace Corps and all of the travel that you’ve done all over the world. I’m sure you’ve been to a number of places that have touched you moved you in some sort of way emotionally, or just in terms of pulling at your heart strings, were some of those transformative places or those places that really left a poignant impression on you from your time there, Nehama (13:32): I loved Laos is one of those places that you don’t do to people say, Oh, I’m going to allow us for vacation. Um, it’s a hard place to travel to. And in it’s one of those places where you take a bath, then you are running your life in God’s hands and hoping that the bus gets you to where you’re going alive. He bought, I just, high-end genuinely interested monks everywhere. They want to practice English with you. Everything’s just beautiful and home. And this like very relaxing, spiritual way. So I would say my Ross’s path and that way, top one, Jordan is a beautiful Concerta to the time to go and explore and more again, the hospitality was incredible. Um, there’s a huge network of just, it’s very common to travel to other countries and link up with peace Corps volunteers there. So I was able to stay with a volunteer and a town called crock and Jordan and stay with her and her host family and just get a small glimpse of what life looks like in the desert. Um, that was a really special experience as we ended our conversation. We asked nahamah who she like to sit next Tonya (14:52): To on her next long haul Nehama (14:54): Quite well. Considering we just inaugurated our first email, black, Asian by president yesterday. And I live in California and Carmella. I used to work for the same city government system that I work for. I think she would be fascinating to sit next to on a long haul flight. If we ever get to toggle again, Ian (15:21): This is the award-winning world footprints podcast with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick world footprints connects you to the world through powerful storytelling that uncovers the full narrative of our cultural and human experiences. Discover the world when you visit our website world footprints.com and make sure you sign up for our newsletter to receive exclusive content. Tonya (15:44): Paul torn air says if we listen to all the conversations of our world, between nations, as well as between individuals, they are for the most part dialogues of the death. I really appreciated him as saying that, you know, when she’s trying to express herself, when she’s a little bit, uh, frustrated and maybe not being accommodated as she should, as a deaf traveler, that she is also very sensitive to cultural appropriateness in her expressions of frustration. And I think that’s so valuable and so very important. And I really appreciate her sharing that with us. Ian (16:27): I think it’s a lesson for all travelers to not take advantage of anything particular to our own circumstances that may make us think that we’re entitled, or we should get special treatment. But to just recognize too, that these are often tough situations, stressful situations. And sometimes the best thing that we can do is just step back from them, Tonya and Ian (16:51): Especially if there are language barriers and, you know, I think it’s just another important reminder to not be so country centric when we’re traveling and to be respectful because there are language barriers. And certainly as she pointed out is not every country is certainly, you know, lesser developed countries have the ability to accommodate people with various disabilities, not yet. And we’re hoping that changes soon. And I, I loved the fact, uh, that she chose our new vice president. Kamala Harris is her, uh, her, her I’ll say wish seat mate. You know, she would love to sit next to her. And I, uh, I think that was a wonderful selection. I always love, you know, and, and get a kick out of the, the people that our guests choose and, and, and the reasons for it. Uh, and so I, as a lawyer and, and, you know, as DC residents, I love the fact that she chose our, our new vice president in closing. We’d like to leave you with these words from Helen Keller. Every one of us is blind and deaf until our eyes are open to our fellow man. And until our ears hear the voice of humanity, we’re Tanya and Ian Fitzpatrick. And we are so honored that you spent this time with us. Thank you for allowing us to connect you to the world. Through the stories we share on world footprints. Tonya (18:27): This world footprints podcast with Ian and Tonya Fitzpatrick is a production of World Footprints, LLC. Silver spring, Maryland. The multi award-winning podcast is available on weld footprints.com and on audio platforms worldwide, including iHeart radio, public radio exchange, iTunes, and Stitcher connect with the world. One story at a time with world footprints, visit world footprints.com to enjoy more podcasts and explore hundreds of articles from international travel writers, and be sure to subscribe to the newsletter world footprints as a trademark of world footprints, LLC, which retains all rights to the world footprints portfolio, including world footprint, stock com, and this podcast

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