Getting pulled over is a stressful situation for anyone. Now imagine that you are pulled over and can’t understand that a police officer is yelling at you to exit your vehicle or shouting instructions that may save your (or their) life. Suddenly, the situation seems perilous.
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is trying to help hearing-impaired citizens with a new visor card tool that will help them better communicate with officers on the streets.
How Did it Start?
To this day, NYPD Sgt. Andrea Cruz still remembers the tragic story of coming to her mother’s aid as a young child. When her mother moved to Brooklyn from Mexico at age 18, she was a victim of domestic violence. Although she sought help, her English had yet to advance to the point where officers could understand her, and the young Cruz had to step in and help.
This was not only Sgt. Cruz’s reason for becoming a cop, it was her motivation for becoming a Spanish language interpreter, taking classes in American sign language, and eventually convincing her superiors to approve special cards that would allow a hearing-impaired driver to tell an officer, “I am deaf or hard-of-hearing”.
This was the inspiration for nearly 12,000 cards being mailed to deaf New Yorkers in late 2018.
How Does it Work?
The idea is simple and works like this: An officer approaches the car of a hearing-impaired driver after being pulled over for a traffic violation. The driver, which may not be able to understand what the officer is instructing them to do, can point to the card on the vehicle’s visor which informs the officer that they are hard-of-hearing.
The card communicates to the officer that the driver cannot hear them, but it also removes any apprehension an officer may have of a driver reaching for their pocket or glove-box.
In addition to the card communicating to the officer that the driver is deaf or hearing impaired, it improves two-way communication in a more profound way. The driver can point to the card and say, “Please help me understand you,” or “Don’t shine your flashlight in my eyes,” according to NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Collaborative Policing Susan Herman.
The officer can communicate back to the driver by pointing to symbols that inform the driver which may state, “You weren’t wearing your seatbelt” or “You were on your cellphone.”
Victor Calise, Commissioner of New York City’s Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, states that “Effective communication between people and police officers is integral to the safety and well-being of individuals and our city . . . By providing visor cards for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing we will open up communication between them and police officers creating a safer and more inclusive experience.”
Sgt. Cruz is convinced that the visor cards will help hearing-impaired residents in New York City in a similar way she helped her mother translate her fears to the police.
Although it’s just a start, similar cards are distributed in places such as Minnesota and Delaware.
For more information visit the official website of the City of New York.