Driving is a basic right in the United States that is often taken for granted by those who hold it, however,
it is a right that some had to fight for. Deaf individuals in the United States have the right to drive—as
they well should—but it was a right they had to (and still have to) fight for.
The ability and right to drive gives greater access to work, school, community resources, and pretty
much anything else a person could need. And, although Deaf people have gained the right to drive, they
still often face discrimination.
In the Beginning
In the 1920’s when the first motor laws were being instated, many states composed laws that denied
deaf individuals the right to drive. This misinformed stigma that began with those laws still informs
Deaf drivers are often denied the right to work for driving companies, rent or test drive vehicles, and are
often held at fault for accidents whether or not they were actually at fault.
Many people have questions concerning Deaf
people’s ability to respond to sound cues while they
drive, in most cases this is unnecessary since most
sound cues are accompanied by visual cues. Also,
there are many devices available that give visual
signals for sounds that occur outside the vehicle.
This whole question of sound cues is rendered
basically moot anyway since most hearing people
are also not paying attention to sounds on the road.
How many hearing drivers do you know who drive in complete silence?
I’m going to guess that number is just about zero. Most hearing drivers spend their time on the road
listening to music, talking on the phone or to a passenger, and otherwise ignoring the sounds on the
road. When you take this into account, hearing drivers are not so different from deaf drivers after all.
Adjusting for the Deaf
And if a Deaf person is pulled over, there are cards that have been state issued in order to inform police
officers and provide alternate means of communications. For many Deaf people, these cards are merely
a formality as they can lip read fairly proficiently.
And, in fact, you may be shocked to hear that numerous studies have shown that Deaf people are no
more likely to be in accidents than hearing people. That’s right, Deaf people are in no more accidents
than hearing people.
Although when at home Deaf individuals may need to rely on Caption calling, captioned telephones, and
caption call service to talk to others, their deafness doesn’t really affect them on the road. The act of
driving is primarily a visual activity, and they have it covered.
This concern is mostly founded on the inaccurate perceptions of deaf people that have been
perpetuated for centuries. And, it’s about time that we give up on the negative perception of deafness
and instead embrace the reality.
Driving Deaf is no more dangerous than driving with the ability to hear, so take a stand today and help
protect the rights of those who do not share your privilege.