Reading this story, you might want to check what century we’re living in. Remarkably, here in the UK, a Deaf couple who had booked a cruise holiday were told only days before their holiday was due to begin that they couldn’t go – unless they took a hearing companion with them.
Yep. You’re reading that right. And no, it’s not April Fool’s Day.
Karen and Peter Harrison booked a cruise holiday with Thomson Cruises around Turkey and Greece. When Karen told the company that they were deaf, the company said: “Regrettably, we will have no option but to refuse yourself and Mrs Harrison boarding of our vessel if you are unable to travel with at least one other person who is able to hear alarm signals and announcements and who would share a cabin with you. If you do not wish to cancel your holiday entirely then the only alternative is that we look at amending your holiday to a suitable land-based one.”
According to Channel 4 News, ‘Thomson said that its ships were too old to have the necessary equipment to make the journey safe for the couple. There are clauses in disability discrimination and equality law which mean that some elements of the rights of deaf and other disabled people to travel do not apply onboard cruise ships – although the laws are set to change to come in line with rail and aviation by the end of this year.’
Luckily, in this case, the couple’s son took up their cause. Paul Harrison, a Deaf journalist (follow him on Twitter as @paulbharrison, now) started campaigning on social media using Twitter and Facebook (where his comment on their wall attracted hundreds of ‘Likes’), before getting in touch with Channel 4 News’s No Go Britain team.
Predictably enough, Thomson Cruises backed down from its original position. Channel 4 say ‘the company will now provide various different adaptations which mean that the couple can travel as planned, including vibrating pagers in case of an emergency. These pagers are already used by the crew but Thomson told the Harrisons it would make an exception for them and any other deaf passengers in the future to ensure that they could be contacted in the event of an emergency.’ The company have also apologised to the couple.
The couple are now set to go on their holiday as planned – so in a sense, this story has a happy ending.
Or does it? Do Deaf people really need to resort to launching a campaign in order to be allowed go on holiday just like hearing people do? Had the couple not had a son who knows how to utilise social media, the story might have had a very different ending.
Nevertheless, this website applauds Paul’s sterling efforts and wishes the Harrisons a relaxing break.
Photo credit: David Lisbona
Read the full story on Channel 4 News here: http://www.channel4.com/news/u-turn-after-deaf-passengers-denied-cruise-break