Airline apologizes for insensitive 'Deaf and Dumb' note on deaf couple's bag

DALLAS - A deaf couple is upset over a note that an American Airlines employee attached to one of their bags, referring to the pair as "deaf and dumb."

James Moehle and Angela Huckaby were returning home to Houston from a vacation in Hawaii when one of their bags was misplaced by the airline. When it was delivered later, a handwritten note attached to the bag read, "Please Text Deaf And Dumb."

The couple is deaf, but "dumb" is an archaic way of describing people unable to speak, an expression that is now considered offensive.

In a letter to American Airlines, Moehle, an air conditioning and heating technician wrote, "I assure you that neither of us are 'Dumb!' Rather, we are both hard-working individuals and responsible parents. We certainly deserve to be treated with dignity and respect."

Moehle ended the letter saying, "We demand not only an immediate apology from American Airlines, but also that disciplinary action be taken against the employee who wrote the unacceptable note."

American Airlines quickly apologized.

Airline spokesman Casey Norton said Friday that the employee who wrote the note did not intend to insult anyone and will go through sensitivity training.

One of the couple's bags was misplaced on the final leg of the couple's journey home, from Dallas to Houston. In such cases, American uses another company to delivery late-arriving baggage to passengers.

Norton said an American employee who is not a native English speaker scrawled the note to alert a delivery driver that he should contact the couple by text message when delivering the bag.

The airline employee "will go through new respect training," Norton said. "We are using it as a systemwide teaching example so that everybody is more respectful of those who have different impairments."

Moehle said that this was the first time he has encountered such offensive behavior towards the deaf.

"I cannot describe how I felt," James Moehle, 34, told ABC News via text message. "I felt lost, angry, confused, and mistreated."

Until receiving that note, the Hawaiian trip had been a thrill. It was Moehle’s first ever plane ride and first vacation in 16 years.

News of the worker training is welcome news for Moehle's mother, Kaye Moehle, who had initially demanded that the worker be fired.

On Friday, Moehle said she didn't want anyone to lose their job and that some good could come out of the situation.

"The public hopefully has been educated a little more to know that the term 'deaf and dumb' has no place in our society, like other derogatory labeling of other good people," she said.

Print this article Back to Top