The state capital of Germany’s most densely populated federal state, North Rhine-Westphalia, has pretty awesome infrastructure and uniquely modern architecture. Not only that, it also includes traditions that still goes strong alongside its cosmopolitan programme. As one of the world’s leading cities when it comes to ranking quality of life (6th place, Mercer 2012) confirmed by over 590,000 residents, it comes to no surprise that Dusseldorf is one of the leading cities also for Barrier-free travel.
The growing importance of being able to travel without barriers is an important issue at and beyond in Dusseldorf as strongly promoted by the Lord Mayor. Pioneered by Düsseldorf Marketing and Tourismus GmbH, they have produced a brochure guide called ‘Düsseldorf without barriers.’ It contains information on hotels, on transport and the gastronomy in the Altstadt (Old Town) as well as accessibility in museums and other attractions and leisure facilities. There is huge choice to be had.
And that’s why in 2014, I decided to visit Düsseldorf in person to find out if this city is really accessible for people with hearing loss.
But what to do? I was truly spoilt. Famous for its fashion, shopping and culture, I couldn’t stop walking around and marvelling at the sights particularly in the historic Altstadt with more than 260 pubs and restaurants and sampling the Altbier (dark, top-fermented beer). I was first told that the tourist offices in the city offer walking tours available in sign language. Pretty good place for me to start to find out the top Eight Youth Hot spots of the city:
See more: Top Eight Youth Hot Spots of Düsseldorf
NOTE: As it has been over two years since I last visited Dusseldorf, I have read the updated version of the brochure and have highlighted below what has changed since then.
Also, the pictures you see here are of my trip to Dusseldorf for you to enjoy!
Well, where to begin for deaf travellers? Is the city really accessible for those with hearing loss?
As I presented myself at the tourist office, I was keenly aware that there are lots of accessibility options for those who have mobility and sight issues. Hearing issues? I had to dig a bit more. I didn’t have the patience as I wanted to see the biggest funfair on the Rhine as quickly as possible! But I stayed on to talk with the deaf aware tourism staff to find out more.
So, let’s start with arriving in Düsseldorf.
What if you’re arriving in Dusseldorf by train?
As the city lies in the heart of Europe, it could be stressful to find your way round the busy station, let alone navigating a whole new language. But it’s connections make it convenient and easy to travel as the underground only takes minutes from central station to the Altstadt and the River Rhine. DB Bahn, the train network has offered induction loops for people with hearing aids and a barrier-free counter at the DB information point in the entrance hall at Konrad-Ade-Nauer-Platz which is open 24/7. Also, if you would like to contact them prior to your arrival, people with hearing loss can contact and book assistance by fax on 01805 15 93 57 (tariffs applies).
So far, so good.
2017 Update: I am told that there is an email address that deaf customers can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
But what about if you’re arriving by air at Dusseldorf International?
As always, it is important to register your hearing loss with the airline early and let them know what special requirements is needed.
I was told that airport information desks had mobile sound shuttles in which signals can be received with a hearing aid adjusted to T (telecoil) position. Also, airport information staff had attended deaf awareness training to get a better understanding of people with hearing loss. I wasn’t evidently aware of this when I arrived at the airport but when I swing through again, I’ll be sure to look out for this.
What about getting around the city by bus, tram and underground?
Although there are great strides in providing accessibility for those with mobility and sight issues, I couldn’t see anything at all for people with hearing loss. However, when I travelled around, I kept a keen eye on the destination display board to ensure I knew which stop we approached.
What about finding more information about Dusseldorf?
There are two tourist offices in Altstadt (where I was) and in Central Station. I wanted to find out more about booking guided tours, grabbing my Dusseldorf Welcome card and perhaps purchase a fridge magnet for my mum. Unfortunately, there were no induction loop system installed (from what I could see) however, as said there were special tour guide groups that can be catered for people who use sign language. As a deaf person who do not use sign language, I opted for a standard tour guide group. I was pleasantly surprised how deaf aware the tour guide was after I made myself known to him.
What about staying in Dusseldorf?
I stayed at the Youth Hostel Association across the River Rhine but just out of interest, I looked at what hotel options there were for people with hearing loss:
- Flash alarms
- Hearing aid amplifier
- Acoustic System available
2017 Update: The below hotels have been included:
- Induction loop system
- Induction loop system
- Acoustic system available
There are a few options available for sure. But I stayed in Jugendherberge youth hostel located in the Oberkassel district, adjacent to the Rhine Meadows (where the funfair was!) and hold views of Altstadt and MedienHafen. It was a great hostel as I stayed in one of the six double rooms and enjoyed the bar and restaurant. However, I couldn’t see any modification for people with hearing loss although the staff was very friendly, clear and concise and helped with my German pronunciation! I’d still go back!
What about eating in Dusseldorf?
This is where I struggled the most. I find it hard to make my food order clear especially in another language but having to listen to another language at the same time is difficult! I’m always a fan of speaking (trying!) the local language but I can get discouraged rather quickly. I found some waiting staff to be sometimes abrupt and quick, often not having the patience to help me be clear what I wanted and understand what had been said. I also was surprised not to find any deaf friendly restaurants promoted by the city too.
What about guided tours in Dusseldorf?
There is a GREAT tour for people with hearing loss in the square kilometre of churches, art venues and pubs in the heart of Düsseldorf that is the Altstadt. This two hour sign language tour is an entertaining and informative mix of town history, characters and anecdotes and very widely received by the local Deaf community and tourists (as found through Twitter.) However, ensure you book this tour beforehand as prior booking is required.
What about sightseeing in Düsseldorf?
Outdoors, I didn’t see any need for accessibility for people with hearing loss as you can wander and sightsee the city with ease. There are many information displays against sightseeing spots so you don’t need an audio guide.
But what about special sightseeing spots indoors in Dusseldorf?
The North Rhine-Westphalian Parliament near the Medienhafen (finished in 1988) has six semi-circular buildings that is grouped together around the plenary hall completing its circular shape, which is meant to communicate transparency and openness. There is an induction loop at the the visitor’s gallery so you can listen in to the debates in action and there is a sound system for special events. I was pretty impressed at this offering!
Johanneskirche (Protestant Church) has an induction loop so you can listen to services within.
What about museums in Düsseldorf?
Being told that Düsseldorf is a metropolis of art with a long tradition and a lively and modern cultural life kept by the local art academy, there are 26 museums to sample.
As a huge history and culture buff, this is what I really wanted to see in the city (also, the funfair of course!). However, I was really surprised to discover that only a couple of these museums are deaf-friendly. All of the museums offer accessibility to those with mobility and walking issues which is great but I was a little perplexed to find only a few catered to those with hearing loss.
So, I opted to attend the most popular deaf-friendly museum which is the Stadtmuseum, the oldest museum in the city. It showcases the development of Düsseldorf from prehistory to present and often has quirky exhibitions. Sign language special guided tours are available on the last Sunday of the month at 4:30pm. This is great but I do feel this could be more often.
2017 Update: Unfortunately, I was surprised to be disappointed to discover that the sign language guided tours have been reduced to one per half year and on request only. It may be that there wasn’t much take up originally but due to the restrictive times originally, that could be why.
What about seeing a show in Düsseldorf?
I didn’t attend a show in the city but I’m told the Deutsche Oper am Rhein (orchestra and ballet) has inductive hearing support at pit and 2nd floor. You need to request these seats in advance.
What about sign language support in Düsseldorf?
The city association of deaf persons in cooperation with the city of Düsseldorf offers free of charge sign language interpreters for events such as public meetings of political bodies, openings of exhibitions or guided tours in museums. However, you will need to be in groups of at least 5 deaf persons to claim this. Not fantastic for solo deaf travellers.
Verdict on barrier free travel in Dusseldorf for people with hearing loss
So, here we have it to find accessibility for people with hearing loss. In my opinion, Dusseldorf is definitely better than a lot of cities in providing support for deaf people, however, they still have long strides to go in order to make sightseeing points and restaurants more accessible. 2017 Update note: I’m pleased that arrival points and hotels in Dusseldorf has shown further improvements in providing support for people with hearing loss. It really does show that the Dusseldorf hospitality has listened to them to improve accessibility. However, I’m disappointed, still, that sightseeing spots, museums and eating establishments have not improved in the last two years for people with hearing loss. I was very surprised to discover that the Stadtmuseum, a museum I was very impressed with on my visit, has reduced sign language guided tours from once a month to half yearly. Perhaps there’s reasons why but this does not sent a clear message of support.
But I would like to make a special note that while I was exploring the city, I was extremely impressed by the support made for people with mobility and walking issues. This would be a city where I would bring my parents too as they both have walking difficulties and I wouldn’t be stressed out about it.
Should you go to Dusseldorf if you have a hearing loss?
If you are a person with hearing loss, still come to Düsseldorf. I had a great time and even though there weren’t 100% support, I still managed to enjoy the city, particularly the funfair! You can find out more deaf-friendly options in the links below.
If you would like to find out more about barrier free travel and get special offers, check out this link:
If you would like to find out more about Düsseldorf, check out these link:
What do you think? Have you been to Dusseldorf? Have you found their barrier-free travel to be of use to you? Tell me in the comments below!