Some Hear With Their Eyes [PHIL-OSOPHY]
Like many drivers, Ms. Z has been pulled over for a traffic violation.
But for Ms. Z, the otherwise routine situation included an added stress. The SouthCoast resident is totally deaf. She motions to police she’s deaf and tries to gesture to write notes, but they don’t know what to do, and start talking to her, and that further gets her frustrated and angry. This is a hypothetical example that addresses the exasperation that deaf people may have when stopped.
It is estimated that up to nine percent of the population has some degree of hearing loss, and this percentage will increase as the population ages. So how is law enforcement supposed to communicate with someone who is deaf?
Visor Cards created by the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing were made to better facilitate communication between the Law Enforcement and Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities. The Visor Cards may be printed front & back, and are often laminated, to be kept in automobiles. You'll notice that the cards have easy to identify icons as well as advice and guidance for interaction between the two communities.
Imagine a deaf person carrying a gun legally. You can see where this could become a problem with tragic results. You’ll be interested to know that a local hard of hearing resident, Brock Cordeiro, contributed the firearms icon on this card. All a deaf person has to do is point to that icon to communicate that a gun is in the car or on his person.
Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), people who are deaf or hard of hearing are entitled to the same services law enforcement provides to anyone else. They may not be excluded or segregated from services, be denied services, or otherwise be treated differently than other people. Law enforcement agencies must make efforts to ensure that their personnel communicate effectively with people whose disability affects hearing.
A public education campaign and wider printing/dissemination of these Visor Cards will be forthcoming.
You can download your own visor cards here: MA Visor Card Final November 2018
Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.