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A Hard of Hearing Card Helps Drivers at Traffic Stops in Missouri

Hard of Hearing Cards Help Drivers at Traffic Stops in Missouri

It’s a proud time for us in the state of Missouri. The Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) have teamed up with local sheriff’s departments to make life a little easier for the deaf community, as well as those with hearing impairment.

We’ve all been in that uncomfortable position when we see those red and blue lights flashing in our rearview mirror. Getting pulled over is no doubt unnerving, and even more so if you are deaf or hard of hearing. Luckily for residents of Missouri, however, safety departments are taking matters into their own hands, by offering informational visor cards to any state resident with a hearing impairment (more info here).

What are visor cards?

Visor cards are small informational cards, which signal to a police officer that a driver is deaf or hard of hearing. They give an oncoming police officer forewarning that the driver may not communicate verbally, and may need extra accommodations in order to understand directions. A driver’s sun visor is not only a convenient place to keep the card from being lost, but it is also a vital location. When pulled down, the visor identification card becomes the first thing a police officer sees when approaching a vehicle from behind. This way, the officer is aware of the hearing impairment before communication has even begun.

Why are visor cards important?

Informational visor cards have the ability to, quite literally, save lives.

Meet Daniel Kevin Harris. Daniel was a long time resident of his North Carolina town, loving father of a young boy, and devoted son and brother. He was also deaf and living with a speech impairment. On August 18th of last year, Daniel was fatally shot by police during a routine traffic stop. While the details of the incident are still murky, the basic facts remain. Trooper Saunders, the officer involved, signaled to Mr. Harris to pull over somewhere along the I-480 freeway. After about 7 miles, Mr. Harris exited the freeway at his normal exit on his route home. Reports indicate that somehow from this point, an altercation occurred between Trooper Saunders and Mr. Harris, which led to a fatal shot being fired. At this point, it remains unknown as to whether or not the officer was aware of Harris’ hearing impairment. Daniel Kevin Harris was only a few feet from his front yard, 29-years-old, and unarmed (full story here).

Would this story have ended differently if Mr. Harris had a visor card? While no one knows for sure, communication always runs more smoothly when both parties are aware of the others’ needs. Mr. Harris’ brother reported that Daniel was always afraid of police interactions because of his hearing impairment. Missouri police departments hope to alleviate some of this fear.

Who do visor cards benefit?

Meet Jackie Cole. Jackie is a case manager and Advocate for the Deaf at SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence (SADI). When dealing with a traffic stop, she understands the difficulties the deaf community faces. She states, “But we realize, it’s our responsibility to put our hands on the wheel so when the police officer comes to the window he realizes that you’re deaf,” Jackie Cole said. “Especially for someone that is just full deaf,” Cole said. “Writing back and forth is just very difficult for them so having that visor is so vital.”

Jim McMillen, a captain with the Sikeston Department of Public Safety believes the informational visor cards have a positive impact on the community. He explains that the cards have “various signs … on it where the officer can point and say you were speeding or you ran a stop sign or I need to see your driver’s license.” This ability to communicate goes a long way in interacting with those with hearing impairments (source).

What to do if you are deaf or hearing impaired and pulled over

First, visit http://mcdhh.mo.gov/missouri-visor-card/ and download the visor card to keep in your vehicle and present immediately to the police officer. Then, follow the steps to take when pulled over and/or arrested outlined by the ALCU in this video.

How Greentree Hearing & Audiology can help

If you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, reach out to us at Greentree Hearing & Audiology. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can lead to many benefits, including improved relationships, increased work productivity, and an overall higher quality of life. Reach out to us. We look forward to helping you on your journey to better hearing.

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