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Deaf Travellers Without Barriers

English translation: Ixone Sáenz Paraíso


Many people are still surprised that, for example, Deaf people can drive or travel alone in the world. Nothing stops a Deaf person from driving since the sense of sight is the most important. And yet there are still more than 20 countries in the world where the right to move freely (article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Rights Humans) is limited due to the lack of permission for Deaf people to own a driving license. While in other countries they can even professionally drive trucks (this topic has been discussed in depth here in Unusualverse).

About travelling, there are some restrictions that mainly affect sea navigation or aircraft piloting. But their transnational experience is even better than hearing people. The visual experience with Sign Language and the sense of belonging to the Deaf community provides advantages.

Calvin Young, Antonia Rodrigues, Joel Barish, Nurul Humairah, Jose Luis Ginard, Stacey Marlene and Gerry Hughes
From left to right and from top to bottom: Calvin Young, Antonia Rodrigues, Joel Barish, Nurul Humairah, Jose Luis Ginard, Stacey Marlene and Gerry Hughes.

Advantages for Deaf Travellers

Deaf travellers usually share common advantages and experiences in their travels. Some of them are the following:

1. Language is not a problem: the use of gestures helps them overcome language communication barriers in any country of the world thanks to their acquired skills through Sign Language.

2. Noise is not a problem either: if you must sleep in an improvised accommodation in a noisy area or environment, this will not be an impediment to fall asleep and rest.

3. There are Deaf people around the world: it is quite easy to meet Deaf people in almost any country or locate them through Deaf associations. They can offer you useful information about your trip or even offer themselves as your guides.

4. Money saving: Many museums, amusement parks or public transports often offer discounts for disabled people or even free disability admission.

5. Sometimes they are better treated: in many countries, Deaf people are very well regarded and even revered.

Calvin Young (United States)

This Deaf adventurer abandoned a successful business career of more than five years in a start-up multimedia production to embrace his dream of traveling around the world.

Calvin started traveling to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Europe for almost two months. Upon his returning to the United States he realised that his travelling stories served as inspiration to other people. Instead of telling his experiences to each one, he started a vlog on Internet so he could be followed around the world.

His goal is to "show the Deaf community that traveling alone can be safe, easy and fun. Through my travels I also want to help empower and inspire Deaf people that they can do anything they want” (Calvin Young).


Antonia Rodrigues Da Silva (Sweden)

We know little about this Deaf traveller, but two years ago she posted a video on Facebook that has obtained more than 190 thousand views and has been shared hundreds of times. In the video, she explains that one day she saw a comment on her Facebook asking her how she could travel to Vietnam without a cochlear implant.

In the video, she shows how she has travelled through different countries around the world and lived various adventures with Sign Language. She also shows how her knowledge of Sign Language provides her a transnational advantage where she meets Deaf people of a great cultural diversity.


Joel Barish (United States)

After graduating in Film, Television and Photography from the Gallaudet University in 1992, Joel Barish founded Deaf Nation as a site to promote language and culture of the Deaf community. He also organised successful national exhibitions in the United States.

His worldwide travelling videos are very popular on Internet with thousands of views. They display Deaf artists and entrepreneurs from all the countries.  Joel's videos also show amazing skills of Deaf people: from aircraft engine assembly to circus artists.


Nurul Humairah (Singapore)

Deaf by birth, Nurul began traveling in 2015 inspired by Calvin Young (above). Now she is a freelance travel photographer, a profession in which she hopes to continue developing and be able to devote herself to it full time. With his travels and photography, she also hopes to inspire other deaf people to achieve their dreams.


José Luis Ginard (Spain)

José Luis Ginard is a profound Deaf person from Mallorca (Spain) who travels around the world by bicycle. To any country he goes, he visits schools for Deaf children and collects their experiences in "Rutas del Silencio".

You can watch it in this 50-minute documentary through Cambodia and Laos which was on the verge of being broadcast on local live TV (Channel 9 from the Valencian Community) but, unfortunately, the chain closed before the date of the broadcast. During this trip, José Luis travelled 1,568 kilometres for 38 days while, of course, visiting schools for Deaf children.


Stacey Marlene (United States)

Stacey is a Deaf Mexican-American female who was born and raised in California. After she lost a close aunt of her, she realized that she only have one life and starts to travel. Until now, she travelled to 18 countries all around the world with her backpack. She knows American Sign Language and International Sign, and she's trying to learn Lengua de Señas Mexicana (LSM / Mexican Sign Language) and Korean Sign Language (KSL).

In 2015, she launched her blog Deafinitely Wanderlust and social media in which she shares her travel experiences, provide travel resources in Sign Language and shares the stories of Deaf communities around the world. She has quickly reached almost 60,000 followers on Facebook and 10,000 followers on Instagram.


Gerry Hughes (United Kingdom)

This Scottish Deaf by birth was the first deaf sailor to go around the world alone in 2013, a feat considering that only 300 people in the world have achieved it.

Gerry became the first ship patron in the United Kingdom in 1981 and, since then, he has not stopped sailing, alternating with his other passions: golf and teaching. In fact, Gerry graduated in Mathematics from the Open University and became the first Deaf teacher in Scotland in 1995 after more than 100 years.

He completed his sailing trip around the world on May 8, 2013 after more than six months of solo and unaided navigation. He became the 201st person in the world to get it and, naturally, the first deaf person. All of these details are on his website and social networks. In the following video you can see its exciting arrival after completing the round the world.


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