Navigating an airport on your own for the first time can be nerve-wracking, even if you have the use of all your senses. But being hearing impaired adds another layer of complexity that can quickly turn a much-anticipated trip into a nightmare.
Ashley Ober from Hagerstown, Maryland, is 16 years old and deaf. When she wanted to fly alone on her recent trip from Baltimore to Rochester, New York, her mom Loretta Ober was hesitant, but let her daughter make the call.
Even though she wanted to take the opportunity to exercise her independence — as many teens do — Ashley knew that the task ahead would not be easy.
“I feel nervous because … what if I miss my flight or I don’t know where to go if I transfer?” Ashley told WJLA through an American Sign Language interpreter. “I mean JFK is such a big airport, so I didn’t know where to go.”
“I wanted to be independent … I know I can do it on my own.”
Her mom dropped her off at the buzzing hub, but according to WMTV Loretta stayed nearby to make sure Ashley got where she needed to go.
“I was waiting, watching my phone and I was thinking should I pull off, should I wait?” she said. “And then the light popped up on my phone.”
Ashley had gotten to her plane, where a Delta flight attendant made sure that Ashley felt comfortable by writing her a note, which Ashley sent a picture of to her mother.
— bostonober (@oberlynn13) July 6, 2019
“Hi Good Morning Ashley,” the note began. “My name is Janna and I will be your flight attendant on today’s flight to JFK. There are two buttons above your head a yellow one that controls the reading light and a big gray one with a person on it that you can use to call me, if you need anything.”
“In the case of emergency the nearest exit is behind you. Those are our over wing exits.”
“Please don’t hesitate to ask if you need any assistance. Again my name is Janna and welcome aboard our CRJ200 aircraft.”
Ashley was impressed, and it helped her feel at ease.
“I put it in my bag,” Ashley said during the video interview with WJLA. “I still have it. I’m going to cherish that.”
“I was just thinking it was so nice. It’s important so they can feel involved and not uncomfortable,” she added, speaking of the deaf community. “Everyone should be involved.”
“Deaf people can do anything,” Ashley said. “Communication is most important. Communication access is most important, to try to make any effort for deaf people, to make them comfortable instead of making them feel afraid.”
Loretta was relieved, too, and thought the gesture deserved to be shared.
“My daughter who is Deaf took a flight by herself!” she tweeted. “The attendant handed her this note on the plane! Delta makes it amazing!”
Delta also released a statement about the flight attendant, recognizing her thoughtfulness and also announcing their plans to get pins for attendants who use sign language so deaf customers will know who to seek out when they need assistance.
“We are extremely proud of the thoughtful approach this Endeavor Air flight attendant took to make the customer feel welcome,” the statement said. “Our goal is to make the world a more inclusive place, ensuring travel is easy for all people.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.