Mon, Mar 05, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Guide finds success with tours for hard-of-hearing

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The right of the hearing-impaired to travel should not be ignored, according to Fantasy Travel Service Co deputy president Dino Peng (彭西鄉), who this year won an award for his work organizing tours for people with hearing difficulties.

“People like to call me ‘Papa Peng,’” Peng said in a YouTube video introduction for his tour package designed specifically for hearing-impaired tourists.

“My own daughter is hearing-impaired,” he said. “Every hearing-impaired person should have the right to travel, and I try my best to arrange tours that allow them to travel like normal people.”

“It is my hope that every hearing-impaired person could step outside and travel,” Peng added.

Peng is this year one of the tour guides to be awarded the Outstanding Tourism Industry Professional Award in recognition of the services he has provided to 300 hearing-impaired tourists over the past seven years.

In an interview with reporters at the Tourism Festival Award Ceremony on Thursday last week, Peng said that he was inspired to create a Facebook page called “Hearing the Tour” (聽見旅行) after a remark from a young hearing-impaired tourist.

“He told me that he joined a tour group once and paid the same amount as everyone else, but could neither hear what the tour guide said nor understand them,” Peng said. “I was shocked.”

Having been in the tourism business for 26 years, Peng said that he realized that while Taiwan has many travel agencies, and even though the nation has about 120,000 hearing-impaired people, almost all of the agencies ignore the needs of the hard-of-hearing.

Peng started searching for ways that would allow hearing-impaired people enjoy tours of the same quality as other tourists do, while paying the same price.

Seven years ago, 18 people signed up for his first group tour to Thailand, Peng said, adding that the itinerary and price were the same as for any other tour group.

He hired a sign-language interpreter to travel along with the group and interpret for the tourists as he guided the tour, and also tried to enunciate whatever he said as clearly as possible, so that some of the tourists could read his lips, Peng said.

However, having a sign language interpreter travel along did not solve all problems, he said.

“I found vibration devices that I could put under the pillows of participants who request wake-up calls, but just in case any of them slept through the alarm, I would ask them not to lock their doors and asked the hotels to provide me with spare keys so I could wake them up,” he said.

Hearing-impaired tourists also have different needs, Peng said.

When arranging the seats on buses, Peng said he places tourists who understand sign language near the back of the bus, whereas he sits those who read lips in the front.

People who can communicate verbally or through writing are sat near the middle of the bus, Peng said, adding that he thus makes sure that all travelers can enjoy the tour.

Peng, who over seven years has arranged 14 such tours, said that many of travelers found it easier to converse with people and make friends because of the special arrangements, with some of them finding spouses during the trips.

He said that he would continue to organize tours for hearing-impaired tourists.

“Parents have thanked us for organizing the tours, because they used to have to travel with their hearing-impaired children,” Peng said. “We have helped the children travel on their own and save travel expenses for their families.”

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