Paramedic wearing ‘Just Deaf, Not Rude’ mask felt ‘very hurt’ by ignorant flight attendant

Paramedic Kelli Adrienne Duncan said masks sometimes cause communication difficulties and that it hurt her to see someone respond with a negative attitude toward disabled people

Jami Ganz
New York Daily News

TAMPA, Fla. — A Tampa-based paramedic is speaking out after an offensive encounter with a flight attendant this month.

Kelli Adrienne Duncan, 43, who is deaf and uses sign language “was on cloud nine” when she and her best friend were traveling to Hartford on Delta, until one of two flight attendants inquired callously about her mask, which read, “Just Deaf, Not Rude," she told Yahoo Life.

Paramedic Kelli Adrienne Duncan was wearing this
Paramedic Kelli Adrienne Duncan was wearing this "Just Deaf, Not Rude" mask on a flight when she says a flight attendant asked if she was "really deaf." (Photo/Instagram via New York Daily News, TNS)

“My friend and I were flying ... to visit family. I was so excited to see them and introduce her,” Duncan recalled, noting she wanted to ensure she and her friend “sat together and since it was a double aisle flight, I needed assistance from one of the attendants."

Upon scoping out which aisle they should walk down, Duncan’s friend “heard the flight attendant who was behind me rudely say, ‘Are you really deaf?’”

Her friend, who was none too happy about the attendant’s rudeness, turned to the latter and confirmed that Duncan is deaf, before she relayed the story to the paramedic.

Duncan, who specializes in occupational health and generally travels solo, said the masks have often caused her communication troubles, so she was “very glad that my best friend was there.”

And though she took the high road, Duncan said she “was very hurt to know someone would insult a disabled person who has had to deal with this my whole life.”

Duncan’s sister, ESPN sports commentator Lauren “Elle” Duncan took to Twitter on the evening of Oct. 9 to call out the airline for the offensive treatment.

“Wow @Delta I’m so disappointed that my deaf sister — wearing THIS mask on your flight — was greeted by a flight attendant who said with disgust in her voice: ‘Are you REALLY deaf’ as my sister struggled to understand her b/c of her mask,” she tweeted. “We mocking disabilities now? Not ok.”

In under two hours, Elle Duncan noted that the airline had already reached out to her.

“I have no doubt you’re going to get to the bottom of this!” she tweeted.

“Delta contacted her almost immediately and said they would investigate the incident,” Kelly Duncan told the outlet.


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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