Thursday, February 23, 2012

Driving Deaf

Do Deaf People Drive?
Of course they do. You don't need to pass a hearing test to get a driver's license. But there are some special considerations to be aware of. We asked our professional driving instructor Verla Douge to help us better understand how some of her deaf students learned to drive.
Ask an Instructor: Verla Douge
Question: What was your first driving experience like with a deaf student?

Answer:  As a teacher of driver's education, I am not usually nervous about driving with a student for the first time.  The first time that I was asked to drive with a hearing impaired/deaf student I was nervous, not because of their driving skills, but because of my signing skills.

However, I have found the students to be very patient. They love to teach me new signs as they try to decipher my "monkey signs" as I call them. They are very happy whenever someone makes an effort to understand them. If a concept is too difficult for me to convey with my limited signing abilities there is always pen and paper available. We do this while the car is parked, in case you were wondering.

Question: Does it make a difference whether or not the student has been hearing-impaired since birth?

Answer: It does help if they have had some hearing and can speak or at least read lips. Communication is easier. I had one young man whom I did not realize at first was just learning ASL himself. That was a challenge since in his native language he used a different set of signs. In his case, we communicated with a lot of drawings.

Question: What specific challenges does hearing-impairment pose on both learning to drive and driving in general?

Answer:  I believe that there is more multi-tasking than normal involved when you have to take your eyes off the road to see what the instructor wants you to do. I usually sign in their peripheral vision or a couple of times I have had proficient signers along in the backseat signing in the rearview mirror. Either way there is more risk involved. The upside is that they do not get bothered by rude people who honk because they are impatient (or maybe illiterate if they cannot read all over the vehicle that we are an instruction car) because the student does not hear their disapproval. Also, I work in an area near a hospital and we frequently have emergency vehicles on the road with us with full sirens and lights activated. They will not get the advanced warning from the sirens but are usually quicker to be aware of them visually.

Question: What would you suggest to other students with learning and/or physical disabilities when learning to drive?

Answer: Take it slow, step by step. Practice frequently. Be patient with yourself and others. Listen to what your parents/instructor tells you and practice it. As parents and instructors we try to use every tool in our bag until we find one that will help the student. This is true for all new drivers and those teaching them.

1 comment:

Thank YOU for sharing your story with us!

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