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Why Washington D.C. is Ideal for Deaf Travelers

by Eugenia Lazaris

Dec 20, 2023

© Ritu Jethani | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

Travel is a great way to explore the world together as a family, but finding the right destination can sometimes be challenging. Finding places offering accessibility for all travelers, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, can make a family vacation so much more rewarding for everyone involved. Enter: Washington, D.C., a place going above and beyond in meeting that challenge.


The nation’s capital, which prides itself on being one of the most accessible cities in the world, is home to Gallaudet University, an institution providing higher education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. It is also the seat of the country’s government and home to a rich political and national history along with wonderful attractions, beautiful architecture and monuments, and great dining and shopping experiences. With a local university providing such a valuable service, it is no wonder Washington, D.C. created an atmosphere accommodating all types of travelers so families can enjoy everything the city has to offer.


Visitors to the D.C. area will find many places where American Sign Language is regularly used, making communication a breeze for everyone. Attractions like International Spy Museum employs staff specially trained on accessibility, making it a wonderful place for those who are blind or deaf to learn the history of espionage. You can even play an interactive spy game while exploring the museum’s exhibits.


All of the city’s numerous Smithsonian Museums offer several features and programs designed specifically to bring the world of art, history and science closer to deaf and hard of hearing visitors. Exhibition videos include captioning and ASL interpretation available upon request with two-week advance notice. The Smithsonian also provides assisted listening devices for all public programs and scheduled tours, and regularly scheduled ASL programming is on the calendars of several institutions like Smithsonian American Art Museum, which offers the Art Signs Program so guests can participate in gallery talks and art discussions using ASL.


Planet Word, a unique museum that is visually friendly and voice activated, specializes in interactive exhibits for all ages, bringing language to life. The museum is designed to introduce and explore languages of all kinds, including several exhibits featuring ASL.


On top of all the great attractions focusing on accessibility, the city also has a large community who use ASL. In the neighborhoods surrounding Gallaudet University, you will find many shops, restaurants and bars with deaf waiters and bartenders who either use ASL regularly or are familiar with signs for their menu items. And if you and your family have a particular fondness for Starbucks, then Washington, D.C. won’t let you down.


The Starbucks, located at 6th and H, adjacent to the Gallaudet campus, is the first signing Starbucks. It was designed specifically with bilingual communication in mind. Employees are fluent in ASL and wear special aprons and pins to indicate their ability to sign. Guests who are not deaf can receive a quick lesson in how to sign the order for their favorite drink.


To top off all the amazing attractions and services you will find throughout the city, Washington, D.C., visitors are encouraged to use the Jeenie app for smartphones and iPads. The app provides round-the-clock assistance, including ASL interpretation.


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