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August 12, 2004

Deaf Charity Calls for Airline Action

From: The Scotsman, UK - Aug 12, 2004

By Dan Webber, Community Newswire

The National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) is today calling for airlines to take action to dispel the uncertainty that exists throughout the industry on the treatment of deaf passengers.

The NDCS is recommending airlines take steps to improve service and ensure deaf passengers are treated with the same respect and consideration as their hearing counterparts.

The NDCS moved to clarify airlines' rules regarding the deaf following an incident at Heathrow Airport on July 22, this year, which saw 23 young deaf adults stranded when an airline refused to let them fly.

To make matters worse the airline, a major carrier, then failed to provide any of the group with an explanation.

Last year, a similar incident was said to have occurred at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport.

Susan Daniels, NDCS chief executive and a Disability Rights Commissioner, said: "There is already a government voluntary code of practice which offers good advice to airlines on how to treat deaf passengers.

"Unfortunately, while some airlines have worked hard to agree policies and provide a good service to meet the needs of all their passengers, others have not.

"Two weeks ago a group of young deaf adults were thrown off a plane at Heathrow Airport with little explanation.

"The National Deaf Children's Society has since approached 14 other airlines to find out what their policies are on deaf passengers and we were shocked to discover that seven could not provide us with any set guidelines."

The NDCS has today released guidelines which it wants all airlines to follow. These include the provision of personal hearing neckloops for passengers who need them, which can be plugged into the standard headphone socket in seats, subtitled safety videos and entertainment systems.

All flight attendants should possess a basic knowledge of sign language and undertake deaf awareness training, the charity added.

Referring to the incident last month at Heathrow, Ms Daniels added: "The treatment of these youngsters was appalling and should never have happened.

"The fact that they were allowed to board the plane as normal and then escorted off it shows how confused airlines are about their own policies.

"Deaf passengers should not be discriminated against because they are deaf and should be allowed to fly like anyone else."

The Access to Air Travel for Disabled People code of practice was published by the Department for Transport in March 2003. It is available on the DPTAC (Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee) website at

The NDCS is the leading UK charity providing on-going support, information, advice and advocacy on all aspects of deafness for deaf children, deaf young people, their families, carers and professionals.

Contact the charity's freephone helpline on 0808 800 8880 (voice and text) or visit the website at