New communication tool for deaf drivers to use with police

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — Most of us get a sinking feeling in our stomachs when we get pulled over by the police.

But imagine what it might feel like when you know you probably won’t be able to communicate with the officer very well.

However, there’s a new communication tool that’s available to deaf people in our area.

Brian Grabler is deaf, and knows if he ever gets pulled over by police, there likely will be a communication barrier.

He talked to us using a sign language interpreter.

“Oftentimes police officers think we look mad and they go, what’s wrong? But it’s so easy to misconstrue what’s happening because of our body language,” Brian Grabler says.

With an estimated 5,000 deaf people in Fort Wayne, a local deaf advocate recognized the need for a communication tool, and designed an information card by pulling together elements from others he’d seen.

It clips on a deaf driver’s visor, which can be swung towards the officer, so the driver isn’t rifling through the glove box when the officer walks up.

Many in the deaf community are fearful when they’re stopped, since deaf people have been shot for not complying with commands because they didn’t hear them.

The visor card is designed to help avoid misunderstandings.

“They can point to it and the officer can also tell them why they’re being stopped, you know. So you ran through that stop sign. Oh, didn’t realize there was one back there. And then it’s just easy enough for them to point to these things, and the communication is clear, it’s easy, it’s succinct,” Bob Larimore says.

The League for the Blind and Disabled hosted a seminar with members of the deaf community and officers from several police departments to help roll out the new placards.

“A lot of times people in the deaf community seem really excited, but they don’t hear themselves when they speak. So for us it’s really loud and can come off as aggressive, but for them it’s just really natural. So just understanding those kind of nuances that we have will really help us gain better understanding,” says Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena.

“We can pull down our visor and we can show the police, they can see that and understand right away and they can be aware of what to be expected from us. And not to shine the flashlight in our eyes because then we won’t be able to see to be able to communicate,” Grabler says.

The League for the Blind and Disabled will produce 300 of the cards for deaf people to put in their cars.

The placards are free, and available at the League.

To request one, you can call 441-0551 or go online at www.the-league.org.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose

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