Information for deaf visitors to Germany
Vivid natural landscapes between the sea and the mountains, vibrant cities and local delicacies – pure indulgence for the eyes, nose and palate! Discover Germany, the holiday destination.
Accessibility for deaf guests
Deaf guests are given a warm welcome in Germany. Discover the sheer diversity that this country has to offer!
Tourism providers are increasingly aware that if deaf people are to experience things to the full, then communication is key. As a result, many more guided tours of museums, cities and natural highlights are becoming available in sign language.
There are a number of different options.
- One is for deaf guides to conduct the specific tour, be it a city, museum or natural setting. As a rule, they will have received prior training.
- Hearing guides conduct tours in sign language. Most of them will have been the children of deaf adults, or are sign language interpreters, all with additional training as tour guides.
- Sign language interpreters accompany the usual guide and provide a translation alongside them. The extra cost of the interpreter is covered either by the group or the organiser of the event. Just ask in advance!
- Sign language videos might also be used to show the sights of a city, for instance. These videos can be downloaded onto your own smartphone as “DGS video guides”. Alternatively, the tourist information office may have devices that play the videos available to rent out.
Ask about the options in advance and make your needs known! Taking a tour allows you to experience cities, culture and nature sites closer at hand, come into contact with local experts and learn all sorts of interesting facts.
On set dates, some theatres offer a translation of the performance into sign language, or provide subtitles. It’s always worth asking!
The German-developed “Greta” app for accessible cinema visits shows German and foreign-language subtitles for the film being shown on screen. The app works for selected films in all cinemas.
The daily news is interpreted in sign language on German TV channels. To catch it, tune into the Phoenix station or go to the media library of broadcasters ARD and ZDF. Lots of programmes also have subtitles.
For everything sign-language related, bear in mind that in Germany, deaf people speak German Sign Language (Deutsche Gebärdensprache, DGS). The signs may differ from region to region, but deaf people in Germany can understand one another nonetheless. Generally speaking, younger deaf people also tend to know International Sign Language.
Holiday ideas for deaf visitors
Tours and information in sign language are offered in cities and regions all over Germany. You can search for specific options, including in the “Tourism for All” database. The Germany-wide labelling system for accessible travel includes the recognition of places that provide comprehensive information for deaf people.
The Network of Municipal Associations for the Deaf lists deaf city tour guides on its website.
Our partners in the cities and regions will also be happy to provide you with specific options for your perfect holiday.
The Netzwerk Hören (Hearing Network) in the Saarland region is especially dedicated to helping deaf visitors. This network comprises accommodation, leisure facilities and medical and therapeutic options, so that your hearing loss won’t stand in the way of a wonderful holiday in the Saarland.
You could combine your holiday with a visit to a trade fair. Large trade fairs focusing on rehabilitation/assistive technology often take place in Germany, one of them being the DEAF FAIR in Frankfurt am Main.
If you’d like to make contact with other deaf people during your stay, please read our section Deaf people in Germany.
Practical information for deaf visitors
We want you to know what to expect in Germany before you decide where to go. After all, it’s important that you’re able to plan your stay properly and ensure that you have everything you need in place. With that in mind, we’ve put some practical information together for you in a separate section.
This is where you can find the key information for deaf visitors.
You can find sign language interpreters on sites like:
People with disabilities and/or their carers are granted free or reduced admission to many places, including museums, theatres, famous sights or parks. Lots of places offer discounts for city tours and public transport. In most cases, you will just need to show proof of disability. German citizens with disabilities have a special pass for this purpose. If you have a similar document issued by the authorities in your country, you’re advised to bring it with you. Do enquire about discounts if they're not specifically mentioned in the list of prices!
If you require specific aids on site or need to get your own aids repaired during your time in Germany, you can contact a German specialist whenever the need arises. People with a hearing disorder should contact a hearing care professional if they have any questions about hearing devices or the like. Specialists tend to be based in the bigger cities and can be contacted during regular office hours.
Please note the following in order to use your electronic devices correctly. In Germany, the mains voltage is 220 V. Type F sockets (grounding-type plugs) are standard. Type C (Euro plug) is commonly used for devices with protective insulation and low power consumption. Hotel bathrooms usually have shaver sockets that can also take British and US plugs. Please bring any extension cables, adapters or power supply units with you.
Deutsche Bahn has put together some information specifically for deaf or hearing impaired passengers.
For more information, see Getting there and around accessibly.
Deaf people in Germany
According to the official figures, there are around 30,000 deaf or hearing impaired people in Germany. These figures are based on the number of people who have applied for a severe disabilities pass. When applying, they are required to state the type and degree of disability. However, there is estimated to be a higher number of unreported cases, among other things because not everyone who would be eligible for the pass actually applies, and because the pass only records the disability with the greatest degree of severity. Overall, almost 8 million German citizens hold a severe disabilities pass. This equates to around 10% of the German population.
Due to the language barrier between those who can hear and those who are deaf, in Germany deaf people are mainly in contact with other deaf people. They exchange information and network with one another via portals like www.taubenschlag.de or www.deafservice.de, but even more so via social media.
They also join organisations for those with specific disabilities, such as the German Association for the Deaf (Deutsches Gehörlosenbund e.V., DGB). The Association's sub-groups in the individual federal states, cities and regions hold regular café get-togethers and meetings, where hearing impaired people can meet up. There is also an open café that welcomes everyone, in Düsseldorf’s main train station.
Hearing impaired people also meet at their own specific events in Germany, such as the German Deaf Sports Festival and the cultural days put on for deaf people. Find out when and where events like these will be taking place before you travel.
Tourism is increasingly opening up to deaf people, with new options being added all the time. However, as deafness isn’t apparent at first glance and lots of people don’t have much experience of hearing impairments, you should be upfront about your needs. In doing so, you’ll be looking out for yourself and ensuring that you really enjoy your accessible holiday in Germany.