By Tina Chen
James Moehle and Angela Huckaby returned to Texas this week from a beautiful Hawaiian vacation, but the trip home was marred slightly by lost luggage but even more so when the luggage turned up with an insulting note attached.
“Please text, deaf and dumb,” were the instructions left on the American Airlines lost baggage receipt on how best to reach the couple.
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, James 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.
“We apologize to Mr. Moehle and Ms. Huckaby. It was clearly a very poor choice of words. We’re confident there was no ill will, but we’ll be looking into this further and will be following up with our team members at IAH and the contractor that provides our baggage delivery services,” American Airlines said in a statement to the couple.
Both James and his mother, Kaye Moehle, want more.
“To me, it’s not enough. They have not satisfied me, nor have they, to my knowledge, satisfied my son either,” Mrs. Moehle said. “So far their messages have been dismissive. I want to hear something like ‘we take this seriously, we are investigating, and we will get back to you.”
“I don’t even know if they take it seriously,” James Moehle said. “I just want them to not ever do that again to someone else.”
Moehle lost his hearing when he was just 17-months-old due to spinal meningitis. The doctors told his mother that he was likely to die, but after 14 days and nights in the hospital, Moehle survived but suffers from hearing loss. His girlfriend, Angela Huckaby, is also deaf.
“I cannot describe how I felt,” James Moehle, 34, told ABC News via text message. “I felt lost, angry, confused, and mistreated.”
Moehle said that this was the first time he has encountered such offensive behavior towards the deaf.
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.
The couple zip-lined over the waterfalls of Hawaii’s Hilo island, visited state parks, saw volcanoes, had a tremendous time with wonderful pictures to show, Kaye said. “I picked them up from the airport and both of them were beaming with joy,” Kaye Moehle, 64, said.
To come home to this kind of offensive behavior, put a sour note on the couple’s island getaway, she said, recalling that her “heart broke” when her son texted her an attachment of the insensitive return note.
“I found it to be like a slap in the face to my son,” she said.
“It was extremely unacceptable, hurtful, and cruel,” Mrs. Moehle said. “People don’t understand. If they don’t have a deaf member in their family, they don’t understand what they have to go through. They have to go to work just like you and I, and we are so fortunate that we have our hearing. Hearing people aren’t ever called ‘hearing and dumb.’”