In August 2016, 29-year-old Daniel Harris was shot and killed by a state trooper after he failed to pull over during a traffic stop. It should have bene a run-of-the-mill traffic stop, except Mr. Harris’s family believes that “his death was the product of a police department that does not know how to interact with those who are deaf or hard of hearing.” In an interview with Reuters, Mr. Harris’s brother, Sam, says, “Being shot by the police is just not acceptable. If the officer had known he was deaf, it would have ended differently, and he would still be around with family, and life would be going on. He’d be happy.”
At the same time, while the case was under investigation, Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, which works for the rights of people with disabilities, says, “People with disabilities will be safer the more police are properly trained in this regard, and it needs to happen now before more tragedies occur. Whether a person is deaf, autistic, or has a chronic health problem, these disabilities are often not understood by police officers when encountering them on the streets.”
For people with hearing loss, how do we ensure our safety in traffic and in interactions with law enforcement officials? One major way is to use visor cards.
Visor Cards for People with Hearing Loss
The Center for Hearing Loss Help provides a great solution for people who are hard of hearing in the form of visor cards. You may print off free versions, or purchase a Hard of Hearing Visor Card Pak, which includes multiple laminated versions and a brochure with further instructions on police interactions. Get your visor cards here.
According to the Center for Hearing Loss Help, “The purpose of the visor card is to bridge the initial communications gap with the police if you are ever stopped by them. It lets the police know you can’t hear/understand their orders and instructions. As a result, they have to use alternate communication strategies, including hand signals, writing things down, and speaking louder and more clearly to you.”
Visor cards are simple to use. Print them off and attach them to visors on both the driver’s side and the passenger’s side. This is done in case you are stopped on a busy highway, and the officer has to stand on the passenger’s side to communicate with you.
Place your visor card right side facing up when your visor is down. Secure it with two elastic bands around both the visor and the visor card. When your visor is up, the card will be out of your way, and it is readily available should you get pulled over.
What to Do if You are Pulled Over
The following steps are recommended by the Center for Hearing Loss Help, should you be pulled over by a law enforcement official:
- Pull over and stop safely. (If it is dark and you are able to, stop under a street lamp, or pull into a lighted parking area. This will make it easier for you to speech read.)
- Immediately flip your sun visor down, unhook the end by the rearview mirror, and swing it over so your Visor Card is clearly visible in the driver’s side window. If you have two visor cards and you think a police officer will come to the passenger side, deploy that visor too. Even better, deploy both visor cards every time you are stopped. That way, you have your bases covered, no matter what happens.
- Open your driver’s side window all the way. (Police officers get very nervous with today’s dark windows!) Also open the passenger’s-side window if you flipped that visor down as well.
- If it is dark, turn on your dome light.
- Place both of your hands on the steering wheel well before any police officer approaches your vehicle. Police officers want to see both your hands at all times. The safest place is to put them on the wheel at the standard driving positions of 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock. Keep your hands on the wheel until after you establish effective communication with the police officer.
Stay Safe by Treating Hearing Loss
Restoring your hearing with the use of hearing aids is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health and well-being. It is especially true in the case of driving and communicating with law enforcement officials.
If you have experienced changes in your hearing abilities, or if you believe it is time to update your hearing aids, contact us at Lifestyle Hearing today. Our team provides comprehensive hearing tests and hearing aid fittings.