What steps do cabin crew take to provide additional assistance to deaf and blind passengers
Cabin crew are trained to assist hearing and visually impaired passengers during a flight, particularly for safety reasons. These passengers normally board first with the assistance of ground staff and are taken directly to their seat. The cabin crew also helps stow their luggage in the luggage compartments.
The legal side of things
Airlines ask to be informed of special assistance requirements when booking a flight, as aviation authority legislation limits the number of passengers with reduced mobility or disabilities for safety reasons, for example by emergency evacuation. Additionally, airlines recommend that these passengers travel with a companion for guidance and communication. Due to legality, these passengers cannot sit in exit rows where security might be impeded, and they will be assigned specific seats.
Personal safety briefing
The passenger will receive a personal safety briefing by a cabin crew member before the rest of the boarding to ensure they understand what to do in an emergency. This will include how to use the seat belt, the life jacket and where it is stowed, how to use the pull down oxygen mask and where the nearest emergency exit is. In addition, they will be shown where the toilets are and how to use the call bell. This gives the passenger a chance to have a practical feel and touch of the safety equipment, in case of an emergency.
The passenger will receive a personal safety briefing. Photo: Getty Images
There will be assistance with meal service where cabin crew can unpack food, give a description or identify where food is placed on a tray, using a “clock” description. For example, a cup can be placed at 10 o’clock.
For a hearing-impaired passenger, the crew can communicate by voicemail or written note, and understand the need to speak clearly so that lip-reading is possible. The safety demonstration is also captioned, like most in-flight entertainment. Some cabin crew members know sign language and may be assigned on these flights.
The Aviation Safety Card can be made available in Braille if required. Photo: Getty Images
A visually impaired passenger will be shown a Braille safety card along with a personal demonstration before the flight. The in-flight entertainment system offers audio content and audio books to choose from. Assistance dogs are allowed on board free of charge and will be assigned a spare seat next to the passenger at no additional cost.
Disabled passengers can also bring additional equipment with them on board to make their flight more comfortable. These can be a physical aid or simply for comfort. The only rule is that the device fits in the seat area and the seat belt can still be fastened. If the passenger has any other type of aid needed, such as a cane, these will be placed in the overhead locker for take-off and landing so as not to interfere with other passengers in the event of an evacuation. In the event of an emergency evacuation, both types of passengers will be escorted by a crew member to the exit and the slide – safety always comes first.
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