NYPD sends out visor cards to better communicate with deaf drivers.
The NYPD will send out visor cards with visual cues and steps to make traffic stops more intelligible for the thousands of licensed New Yorkers who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Police Department announced Wednesday.
“We want a situation that can often be stressful to go as smoothly as possible,” said Susan Herman, deputy commissioner of collaborative policing. “Our hope is that this is a way to promote better communication between the NYPD and another community in New York City.”
The cards — which will be mailed tomorrow to the 11,590 New Yorkers whose licenses designate that they are deaf or hard of hearing — provide instructions for drivers in the event they are pulled over and guidelines for police to interact with drivers.
“Our understanding is someone will point to the visor, take the placard down and the officer and the driver will go through this together,” Herman said.
The card provides drivers a checklist to indicate their preferred method of communication — American Sign Language, pen and paper, lip-reading, verbal communication or some other form — and instructs officers to take certain measures to more capably communicate with the hearing impaired.
Among the instructions:
*Don’t shine your flashlight in my eyes.
*Try to eliminate background noise.
*Speak clearly and in a normal tone.
*Face me when you speak.
Officers can then choose from a set of icons — including a speed limit sign, stop sign, traffic light, pedestrian crossing, cell phone, seat belt or alcohol — to explain the reason for their stop.
The initiative was first proposed by Sgt. Andrea Cruz a little over a year ago after the 14-year veteran learned sign language, and met members of the deaf and hearing-impaired community.
“Their voice is their hands,” Cruz said. “If they can’t use their hands, it’s like putting a muzzle on your mouth.”
While the distribution of visor cards is intended to improve communication during traffic stops, over the upcoming months the NYPD plans to expand training for officers communicating with the deaf or hard of hearing and to create a language hotline for cops to receive assistance from officers proficient in American Sign Language, Herman said. There are just nine NYPD officers currently trained and certified in ASL.
Cruz learned the critical value of interpretive services when she was just 7, as she relayed the harrowing details of her Spanish-speaking mother’s abuse to police.
“I understood that she needed help that morning or those afternoons when she called the cops and she wanted to express what happened to those bruises she had,” Cruz said. “I remember that sense of relief when the cops came to help us and I never forgot that feeling.”
Her mother’s experience inspired Cruz, 35, to become a police officer and push to expand the interpretive services at the department’s disposal.
“As an adult, I knew I didn’t want other children to go through this,” said Cruz, whose mother passed away before she became an officer. “I didn’t want them to hear how their parent was a victim”
A downloadable visor card is available via the NYPD’s website for drivers who have not received an F1 license designation for deafness or hearing impairment.
Source: New York Daily News
Image credit: Jefferson Siegel / New York Daily News
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