Interaction between People with Hearing Loss and Law Enforcement Officers
We sometimes hear horror
stories about tragedies involving people with hearing loss and law
enforcement officers. In too many situations, a simple misunderstand can
result in tragic consequences. Fortunately, more law enforcement
organizations are teaching their officers about people with hearing loss
and how to deal with them. Here's hoping that this training reduces
Visor Cards and Driver's
Response to Visor Cards and Driver's License Stickers
There's been quite a discussion on bhNEWS recently about methods of
informing a police officer that the person he stopped for a traffic
violation is deaf or hard of hearing. The discussion focused on visor
cards, which are becoming popular in several areas, and driver's license
stickers, which have recently been adopted in one state. The issues are
- which method is superior, and
- is either better than nothing at all?
The visor card has some clear advantages. It is large and visible and
will be immediately recognized by an officer if the card is publicized
and the person he stops is from that area. On the downside is the
possibility that the card might be visible to someone who could take
advantage of knowing that the driver is deaf or hard of hearing. Another
downside is that when an officer asks for a driver's license, he expects
the driver to reach for a wallet or a purse, not the visor. An untrained
officer or one in an area where visor cards aren't used might be
surprised when the driver pulls down the visor, and bad things can
happen with officers are surprised.
The other option is a sticker on the driver's license. This method
has the advantage that the officer will see the driver produce his
driver's license, which is what the officer expects, and that the bad
guys won't see an indication that the driver is deaf or hard of hearing.
The disadvantages are that the sticker might be overlooked by the
officer and will likely not be recognized by officers in locations that
don't issue stickers.
The question of what to do when a cop stops you is one that comes up
repeatedly in the hearing loss world, and there seems to be no good
solution. I'd be very interested in your opinion of how to handle this
situation. And if you have experience with a visor card or driver's
license sticker, please let us know what you think of that.
Last week we published an article about two alternatives for
informing officers about hearing loss if you're pulled over. Several
readers responded with their comments (thanks!).
Carolyn reported that she was cognizant of being sure the officer
knew what she was doing, and that her husband affirmed she had handled
the situation well. She says:
"[The policeman] followed me through the construction area and
then pulled me over. The first thing I said to the policeman at my car
door window was: 'I cannot hear well.' I didn't even want to reach for
anything until I had told him that. My purse to get my License, by the
way, was in the back seat and I had to tell him that, too. Otherwise, he
would have wondered what I was reaching for, right?
"He then gave me a warning re: watching carefully for the Speed
Limit signs around construction sites. And let me go on. Later I talked
to my husband and he agreed that I had handled that correctly by
speaking up immediately to tell the policeman I could not hear well.
Immediately --- that is the key, too."
Les Garlock (Lmgarl@bellsouth.net) writes that the officer he spoke
to didn't think reaching for his visor card would be a problem. Here's
"I have a visor card showing that I am hearing impaired. My wife
doesn't want me to place it on the back of the sun visor because she
always drives with the visor down and it would distract her. So I have
placed it in the pocket of the driver's door. I was concerned that a
police officer might think I was reaching for a gun if I attempted to
remove it to place in the side window if I were stopped. At a recent
Police Appreciation Day I was having my VIN etched on my car windows and
a couple of cops were standing near by. I took the opportunity to show
them the visor card in the door pocket and asked if I might get in
trouble if I reached for it. They didn't seem to be concerned a bit by
that action. Maybe I was so old looking that they thought I was harmless
and wouldn't draw a gun on them."
Arva Priola (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports that Virginia is working on a
visor card program. She reports:
"We will be coming out with a prerelease very soon as Virginia
is the second state in the nation to adopt this.
We have a training video that will be going out to all towns, cities,
and counties to their police department.
We have gotten input from deaf and hard of hearing. We have been
contacted by the LA police department. I really feel that the Michigan
and the Virginia version can become a model for the nation. It does not
leave out anyone with hearing loss.
"The FBI has also been in my office to get copies. DMV is paying
for everything. The VA Association of Police Chiefs have been wonderful
to work with along with Department of Deaf and Hard of hearing. We are
proud of what has happened in VA. "
And finally, Diane Edge has some comments. You've met her on these
pages before in connection with visor cards. You can (and should!) read
more about her advocacy efforts, including those on visor cards, at
aslsomd.8m.com. You can also email her at email@example.com. Here are
portions of her response:
"The name Visor card - well, that is exactly where the card
should be kept. Leaving it out on a dashboard is something that I
personally would not do or promote. I am a woman and also deaf - I do
not want to call undue attention to myself.
"Unless someone is just not paying attention - the placement of
the visor is handy and in the event that you are pulled over by a law
enforcement officer with a spilt sec... there should be enough time as
you are being pulled over to get the visor out and place it in the
window FACING the officer.... or lower your window and hand the card to
the officer at that time.
"I use both the visor card and have created a small version of
the deafear logo that I made for my visor card (yes it is copyrighted
thank you!) and with the help of my copier- I made a small deafear
symbol and have that "taped" on my driver's license.
"You see, I believe in protecting myself in everyway possible, I
do not plan to only be stuck in one selection - I want to do everything
I can possibly do and think of beforehand that might be needed, prepare
for that and then create the avenue to promote self advocacy."