Train travel tips for the deaf and hearing impaired

Did you know that, according to government figures, 11 million people in the UK are deaf or hearing impaired? That’s roughly 16% of the country’s population or 1 in every 6. 

Many steps have been taken to create more inclusive and accessible rail services. If you are deaf or hearing impaired, then you and a travelling companion are entitled to discounted travel with a disabled person railcard; National Rail has pledged to install more hearing or audio induction loops in every train station (in addition to those already installed at ticket offices), and certain train companies are enrolling their staff in disability and deaf awareness training to facilitate a more comfortable experience. 

That being said, we understand that there still remain some challenges such as announcement delays and a lack of British Sign Language interpreters, that can make train travel daunting if you are deaf or live with hearing loss or impairment. That’s why we’ve put together this list of 3 easy tips to follow if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, to ensure you have a safe and pleasant journey.

Plan your journey ahead

An example which may ease any anxieties you may have towards train travel is booking ahead. This can save you a lot of time and energy as it means you don’t have to worry about any potential communication issues, and you can collect or download your ticket and be on your way. 

What’s more, the Passenger Assistance app is designed to simplify assisted travel, making it quick and easy to prebook any extra assistance you might need on your journey. 

Another tip that may make the journey easier for you is to carry things you know you’ve found handy in the past such as a pen and notebook which would be handy if you need to communicate with train staff or fellow travellers who aren’t familiar with British Sign Language.  You could even set a vibrating alarm to go off a few minutes before your scheduled arrival time to add some ease. 

Check which accessibility services your rail provider offers

Last year, Network Rail introduced SignLive, an app that allows you to connect to an interpreter via a video call so that they can update you on the latest announcements, or enable a three-way conversation with train staff. They also have Signly, an app that provides deaf travellers with information to help them safely use level crossings. 

TransPennine Express ensured their staff completed a Get Deaf Aware workshop as part of their training. They also allow hearing dogs on board their trains. These are 2 examples of train operating companies striving to make journeys more comfortable for deaf people and people with hearing impairments.

It is a legal requirement for train operating companies in the UK to make trains accessible to all passengers, and while provisions vary, all companies should be able to offer flexible travel arrangements and pre-arranged assistance requests.

Look for visual aids

It’s quite likely you’re already familiar with this, but if you wear a hearing aid, then keep an eye out for the hearing loop symbol at the train station. Setting your hearing aid to the ‘T’ or telecoil setting will enable it to catch the magnetic, wireless signal and help you to better hear spoken words. 

Trains are also now being fitted with display screens in most compartments. These screens relay important information like the name of the next destination, the arrival times for each stop, etc. 

We hope these simple yet effective tips will go a long way towards making your journey that much more pleasant and stress-free. You might also like to read our separate post on travelling alone as a disabled person, which includes insight around bus and coach journeys too.

Please do share your own tips with us, or comment on what services you’d like train companies to provide.