Visor card initiative aims to help deaf people communicate with police

Published On May 22, 2018 | By Christina Zisko | News

The Ontario Association of the Deaf and the OPP are collaborating on an initiative to improve communication between police and deaf individuals. (Scubacopper/Flickr)

Christina Zisko

An example of a visor card for the deaf from Wisconsin. (burnettwire.com)

The Ontario Association of the Deaf (OAD) is rolling out a plan to make traffic stops easier for deaf, mute and hard of hearing Ontarians.

In collaboration with the Ontario Provincial Police, the OAD is providing visor cards to allow better communication between officers and deaf individuals.

“We are endorsing [this program] to help the deaf communicate,” said OPP Staff Sgt. Carol Dionne.

The cards identify the driver as deaf and use pictures to indicate what an officer might need from the driver. Examples include images of a driver’s licence, insurance and registration information.

The visor cards were launched at the OAD’s annual Mayfest event, which had about 6000 visitors over a two day period, said Caylan McMullan, the communications coordinator for the OAD.

The cards also enable the officer and the driver to use different forms of interaction, indicating whether the deaf person can lip-read or would prefer texting or writing to communicate.

Before visor cards were created, people who are deaf were forced to find other means of communicating with officers.

Pen and paper or cellphones are sometimes used when individuals are pulled over, said McMullan.

“This takes time and can be frustrating to both parties,” he said.

Communication barriers are a real problem when it comes to officers pulling over deaf or hard of hearing drivers.

This difficulty can lead officers to shout or over pronounce words in an effort to be understood, McMullan said.

In other situations there is no communication at all between the driver and officer and a ticket is simply handed over, he said.

With people who are deaf, the language barrier is similar to that of someone who speaks a different verbal language, said Dionne.

The visor cards enable more safe and efficient communication.

“People can get flustered when trying to communicate with a deaf person,” says McMullan.

“Also, a deaf person can get flustered when communicating with an officer, as the deaf community knows that a lack of communication with an officer can lead to the situation turning into more than it should be.”

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Christina Zisko

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