News International

Deaf cyclist who is making touring more accessible

Kaj Kraus has travelled all over America using American Sign Language and a practical way to negotiate the dangers

Wednesday 2 August
Deaf cyclist who is making touring more accessible

Editor - August 02 at 07:00

After riding the Pacific Coast in the USA, completing a cross-country bike tour, and falling in love with the road, Kaj Kraus, a deaf graduate student and bike messenger, won the Adventure Cycling Association’s Young Adult Bicycle Travel Award. Here’s how he plans to make the world of bike touring more accessible—and bring a rolling party of ASL users to the Great Divide route in 2018. “I was living in Queens, New York, and taking the subway to New York University in Lower Manhattan when I bought my first bike in 2013. It completely changed my relationship with the city. On a bike, you learn how streets connect to each other. You ride past parks, warehouses, cafés, and public art that you’d never see otherwise. In 2015 I decided I wanted to see the Pacific Coast. I biked alone from Seattle to Los Angeles. In 2016, I toured with some friends all over the Pacific Northwest and then across the country to New York City. I didn’t really have any communication issues while touring—I can get across anything I need to by pointing, gesturing, or writing.
In Rio Dell, California, I met an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter who was biking with her friend from Canada to Mexico to celebrate their 60th birthdays. I also met a deaf man in a supermarket in Orcas, Washington, who later drove to meet me at the top of Mount Constitution with snacks after the hefty climb. You’re almost never alone on bike tours. Someone in a pickup truck pulls up next to you in a parking lot; four hours later, they’ve bought you lunch and shared their life story. The pace of bike touring offers so much more insight into an area. I was chatting with a friend recently and she mentioned her parents live in rural eastern Washington. She assumed I’d never heard of the town. But not only had I heard of Kettle Falls, I could remember its elevation, the smell of the planned forest fires just outside town, the peanut shell–covered floor of the bar where we ate pizza that day, and the conversation happening next to us about methods for barbecuing squirrels.
After my cross-country tour, I started working as a bike messenger for the flower delivery service UrbanStems in Washington, DC. I wasn’t ready to stop riding my bike every day. The guy who interviewed me straight up said, “We’ve never had a deaf courier, but if you can bike across the country, I don’t doubt you can do this job.”
People usually assume being deaf is just hearing loss, and that I’m less aware of my environment. What they don’t realize is how deaf people also attune to the environment differently through enhanced visual, spatial, and tactile awareness. Academics call this deaf gain. Traffic has a logic that’s easy to follow if you can track its signs, which aren’t just auditory. I don’t need to hear or even see an ambulance to know when one is approaching—when other drivers pull over for seemingly no reason, I pull over, too. Because I’m not aware of all the noise and honking, I’m less distracted and can focus on where I’m going in relation to other cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. It’s actually a very predictable and serene experience. There are a good number of deaf cyclists in DC participating in crits, alleycats, and other events. We have a regular group ride called ASL Biking Day that a friend started, and a deaf cycling club called dVELO. I grew up going to school with hearing kids where no one else used sign language. After years of education in this so-called inclusive learning environment, I came to Gallaudet University in DC, right after my Pacific Coast tour in 2015. Many of my professors are deaf and everything happens in ASL.

It’s now clear to me that the only completely barrier-free environment for deaf people is in a group of other sign language users. I would probably have a good time on one of the amazing tours that Adventure Cycling Association offers—but I can reasonably assume that no one else would know ASL. For signing deaf people to get the most out of a tour, it should happen with other signing deaf people and our hearing, signing allies, which isn’t always easy to arrange. I’d love to bring more ASL accessibility to touring so that deaf people can form global networks for planning bike trips. As part of my Adventure Cycling scholarship I’ll be at its Leadership Training Course in Toronto this September. I’ve already recruited two bike friends to be interpreters. Then I’m going to organize a bike tour for ASL users during the summer of 2018. We’ll take Amtrak to Pittsburgh and then ride back to DC on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal. There will be an orientation and maintenance class conducted in ASL before we head out. But I’d like to see ASL bike tours beyond that. Great Divide, anyone?”
Source:Bicycling.com

Comment

shock Decision by owner to close the

Israeli philanthropist donates to help

A number of cold callers in Kent are

New start up in Lebanon launches apps in USA

National Theatre will provide glasses with

de Montfort launches video to explain the

Charity workers not guaranteed hours

Man loses five figure sum

Kidknapped acquaintance and hacked up her

Cuts hit disabled people hardest

Rider raises funds for BTA