“T.J.” left a thought-provoking comment on the NTID CEO and 14 students stalled in England post, and my long response warranted its own post. Here’s what T.J. had to say.
That is correct. In a matter of fact, the very first call for passengers for most airlines are disabled, elderly, and family with young children. This is not quite as true for Southwest at this time.
All you should do is communicate this fact to the Gate Agent BEFORE the boarding process. “Excuse me, I am deaf and I do not know when I should be boarding, can you please visibly show me when I should get on?” Ask in the nicest way possible, and they’ll keep an eye on you and wave you over while making the announcement. Of course, being nice is a huge key here — be grateful for their help, and they’ll usually do the same for you.
Actually, I’ve long known Southwest lets disabled passengers get on before any zones. All you have to ask for is the “Blue Card”. This was always used when I was frequently flying Southwest.
Later, I discovered other airlines had the same Blue Card–go figure, the card is a federal program required of all airlines. I don’t usually take advantage of this when flying airlines other than Southwest, because seats are assigned anyways. With Southwest, of course, I wanted to sit up in the front of the plane.
Before marriage, I would just sit until the waiting room was empty, then board. No lines. Who wanted to hurry onto the plane? But now that I have a wife who has huge carry-ons (you do know what I mean ) we need to get on the plane as early as we can (either with our zone, or by the Blue Card) so there’s room for the carry-on in the overhead storage.
Before you say “Though I’m deaf, I don’t need special treatment or assistance.” My wife did not like getting the Blue Card until this happened: Prior to a Southwest flight some time ago, I insisted that we get a Blue Card and I did. As soon as we were about to board, at the very last minute, our flight switched gates. Because we were the “supposed” first to board, we got notified by the gate attendant of this change. If we had not, we would’ve missed the flight departing from the gate on the other end of the terminal.