New safety measure to help deaf drivers and police

Local News

South Burlington, VT – In Vermont, deaf and hearing-impaired individuals can now obtain a visor card. The device helps Deaf drivers communicate with police if they are pulled over.

Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), and Vermont State Police (VSP) collaborated together to implement this safety tool.

UVM’s American Sign Language Professor John Pirone explains how he informs a police officer that he is deaf.

“I just gesture. So I point to my ear and shake my head and hope that that’s understandable,” said Pirone.

However, he’s experienced tougher situations on the road. Pirone was the passenger in a vehicle when he witnessed the arrest of an innocent deaf driver. Like Pirone, his friend only spoke sign language, but the officer detained him anyway.

Sargent Jay Riggen with Vermont State Police says a tool like this is critical.

“(It’s) to elevate the consistency across the way the public – who may be hearing impaired – and a police officer – who may not be totally sharp on their training – might be able to navigate those waters,” said Stg. Riggen.

Motor Vehicle Branch Manager Nancy Prescott explains how to use a visor card.

“(The) visor has many icons on here that both parties will be able to utilize and point to,” said Prescott.

Pirone says he plans to get a visor card in the near future – and for several reasons.

“I’m definitely getting one, not just because it’s important for communication but for safety as well,” said Pirone.

Deaf individuals can get one online, free of charge. The Vermont DMV will deliver the card by mail.

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