Ah, summertime! That time of year when the kids are out of school, flip flops are the shoe of choice, and families reconnect by hitting the road together. Fortunately, thanks to advances in technology and efforts by the hearing healthcare profession, many vacation destinations offer services for the hearing impaired, which means family members with hearing loss don't need to miss out on the fun. We've found a few hearing-friendly destinations you may want to consider and provided links to their guests with disabilities informational pages. Many attractions require advance notice for special requests, so make sure you plan accordingly.
The Magic Kingdom is legendary for making their guests feel right at home - no matter your age, size or disability. If you're planning to visit Walt Disney World with a hearing-impaired family member this summer, be sure to make Guest Services your first stop inside the park. That's where you'll encounter a Cast Member who, upon identification of your hearing loss, will provide you with a listening device that amplifies the sound tracks of the attractions you'll be visiting throughout your stay. You'll be asked for a deposit, which will be refunded when you return the device the same day. A park guide map will tell you which attractions participate in the amplification; other attractions offer reflective and video captioning and scripts. While you're there, ask for a guide map that indicates which shows are interpreted. Sign language interpreters are also available with a two week advance notice.
Hard-of-hearing individuals staying at one of the resorts can request their room be equipped with door knock and phone alerts, bed shaker notification, a strobe light smoke detector and TTY telephone.
Orlando is also home to Universal Studios, where guests with hearing loss will enjoy interpreted performances of many in-park shows. A list of these shows are printed on the park map, available to each visitor once they enter the park. Closed captioning, assistive listening devices, guide books and attraction scripts are also available at Guest Services. TTY telephones and TTDs are located at Guest Services and Health Services.
San Diego, California
There's plenty to do in San Diego, and you can almost always count on the weather to cooperate, too.
The San Diego Zoo provides ASL signed bus tours and an interpreter if you call in advance. On the first Saturday of every month, SeaWorld offers ASL interpreters at select shows and exhibits. TTD telephones and assistive listening devices are available. The park also offers scripts for all shows and free interpreter services with a two week advance notice. Have a Lego afficionado? You may want to visit Legoland, where ticket booths have a loop system installed and some staff use ASL. More information is available at Guest Services.
Every family should make the effort to visit our national capital at least once. There's so much to do you'll need to pick and choose your top three to five attractions and make a promise to come back next year to see more.
Regardless of your political persuasion, the White House is a must-see and if you submit a request to your Member of Congress, you may be able to take a self-guided tour while you're there. Be sure to mention your visual impairment or hearing loss when you contact them and be aware tours are scheduled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Smithsonian National Museum of National History is a delight at every turn. Find out what it means to be "cool" at the American Cool exhibit in the Portrait Gallery. See images from the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the Air and Space Museum. View two dozen dresses worn by former first ladies and learn about Egyptian burial rituals in the Natural History Museum. Guests with hearing loss will appreciate the induction loops with receivers which are available for use at the Rotunda Visitor Information Desk.
A sign language interpreter and real-time captioning (CART) is also available upon request. You can request free tickets to the Washington Monument, which reopened on May 12, 2014 and take a guided walking tour of the Memorials of the National Mall.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
If you haven't made reservations to stay at one of the Grand Canyon lodges by now, chances are you've missed out for the summer - but that shouldn't keep you from going. Plenty of hotel rooms are available just outside the North Rim in Tusayan, Williams and Flagstaff. More than 10 million visitors come to see the spectacular views of the Grand Canyon every year. Park ranger programs are free, and so are ASL interpreters if you email the park at least three weeks ahead of time at firstname.lastname@example.org. Download your copy of "The Guide" at www.nps.gov/grca which lists all park ranger programs. Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar, and Yavapai Lodge have TTY phones available for public use. For more information, contact the park's Deaf Services Coordinator, 928-638-7888.
Step back in time in Colonial Williamsburg, where your family will meet tradespeople, shopkeepers, women and the enslaved who lived in revolutionary times. Every day in the Revolutionary City you can witness the Storming of the Palace, the Declaration of Independence, and the General addressing the citizens of Williamsburg as they prepare for the siege of Yorktown. Closed captioned televisions are available at the Williamsburg Inn, Williamsburg Lodge, Williamsburg Woodlands Hotel and Suites, and Governor's Inn. Ask at the front desk for battery-operated strobe fire alarms, TTD machines, amplifier headsets, or shake awake alarm clocks.
The Visitor Center has scripting and headsets for the orientation film Williamsburg - the Story of a Patriot, and one of the theaters offers a captioned version of the film. Headsets with adjustable volumes are available for programs in the Hennage Auditorium, the Kimball Theater, and the Virginia Room of the Williamsburg Lodge. If you'd like an interpreter to accompany you through the Revolutionary Center, please call the Visitor Center Administrative Office at least two weeks in advance.