Hearing disability comes with challenges; enjoying and learning about the natural wonders of our nation’s national parks doesn’t have to be challenging.

Imagine walking through the thick redwood forests of northern California. During the guided nature walk, a national park ranger accompanies your group pointing out certain types of wildlife. The guide mentions how important fauna that is and how it is an endemic to the park. The ranger explains in details the complex mating rituals of a migratory bird. The ages of some of the largest trees in the entire world.

The problem, unfortunately, is that you were unable to hear any of the interesting facts that he/she was explaining. While you could enjoy the view of the massive trees and could spot the birds darting from branch to branch; however, not being able to understand detailed information about what you saw caused you to miss out of the awe that the natural world brings.

As society moves towards inclusivity for people, national parks are implementing programs for people with hearing disabilities to enjoy better experiences. If you or family members is deaf and/or have hearing disability, below we suggest some leading parks offering deaf programs. Planning your next vacation to a place that you will be able to fully enjoy with full access in American Sign Language.

Why Should the National Park System Provide Hearing Services for their Visitors?

It is estimated that around 7.6 million people in the United States alone suffer from some sort of hearing loss. Hearing loss is defined as the inability to have a normal conversation even with some sort of hearing device. That is over 3% of the country´s population. From a purely pragmatic and economic sense, by providing interpretative services for people with healing impairments; the National Park Service will be improving the enjoyment for millions of people that would then be likely to return.

Furthermore, the National Park Service states in its statues that

“NPS will ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that persons with disabilities receive the same interpretive opportunities as non-disabled persons, in the most integrated setting possible.”

Since national park system uses public money to preserve ecologically pristine places and allow the population to enjoy these places. They also have the responsibility to make sure that all different types of people can enjoy these natural wonders.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park is a leader among the national park system in regards to services for people with healing impairments. For deaf people who are planning a trip to the park, they can learn all about what the park has to offer including the geological history and the natural diversity through a YouTube video series that comes with sign language. The video series also gives in depth information related to where you can drive in Yosemite; how to get certain access passes, and loads of other information that will help you as you plan your trip. Along with these videos, you can read more about what Yosemite National Park has to offer at the Live Once Live Wild blog.

Furthermore, Yosemite offers a full time sign language interpreter during the entire summer months when most people visit the park. You can request interpretation during certain programs and features the park offers by contacting the park ahead of time.

Lastly, Yosemite also offers other services for the benefit of deaf people visiting and lodging at the park. A public videophone is available to def visitors at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Every lodging facility throughout the park has a light flasher systems for the door, smoke alarm, and telephones which alert hearing-impaired people in the event of disaster.

The Pacific Northwest

In the Pacific Northwest, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks have a unique opportunity for deaf young people. Northwest Youth Corps, is a program open to young people who are deaf or who suffer from serious hearing impairments. This five week summer program brings deaf youth to national parks and learn about important conservation efforts and aspects of park maintenance. These teens are also able to interact with other deaf youth who come to the program and participate.

The Importance of Inclusiveness

The National Park System protects some of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring, and unique ecosystems our country has to offer. The best ways to truly appreciate the uniqueness of landscapes that you visit is through learning about its history. The flora, the fauna, and the geological forces that have made the place you’re visiting what it is today. As our society moves towards greater inclusivity for hearing-impaired people, more national parks will begin to follow the lead of parks like Yosemite. Yosemite attempts to make available the information regarding the park’s rich history to all of its visitors.

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Thomsen Young

Founder of SG