'Don't Shoot Me, I'm________!'.

Author:Ervin, Mike

If you're deaf and you drive a motor vehicle, in some states there's a card available that's designed to make it easier for you to communicate with police when they pull you over.

There's one such card circulating in Illinois, where I live. There are similar ones in Virginia and West Virginia. The way it's supposed to work is, when the cop comes up to a deaf driver's window, the driver flashes the card and points to where it says I Am Deaf or Hard of Hearing. And then the cop points to one of the symbols under the heading of "violations."

On the Illinois card, one of the symbols is a silhouette of a bottle and a wine glass. If the police point to that, I guess that's their way of telling deaf drivers they're suspected of driving drunk. Another symbol is a silhouette of a car with a trail of squiggly tire tracks and under it is the word "reckless." There's also a silhouette of a man standing behind prison bars. I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Maybe it means the cop thinks the deaf driver is an escaped convict.

Some police departments are stocking up on these cards and giving them to officers to keep in their vehicles to have handy in case they encounter someone they suspect is a deaf driver.

This all sounds like a good idea, but I wonder how it works in the real world. Like, for instance, any deaf driver with one of these cards ought to keep it out in the open at all times, especially if they're not white. Because if the card is tucked away in the glove box or under the seat and the deaf driver reaches for it while a fidgety cop looks on, well, we all know what's likely to happen next. And later, the cop will probably swear up and down that the card looked like a gun or a butcher knife.

There also really needs to be some version of a communication card like this for deaf pedestrians to carry around, because it's not just deaf drivers who have trouble with police. The cards need to be updated to include such frequently used phrases as, "I'm deaf, so please don't pepper-spray me."

In September 2003, Steven Spencer of Wheeling, Illinois, who is deaf, went on trial on charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. Police had gone to Spencer's home earlier that year responding to a call about a domestic dispute. A police officer pepper-sprayed Spencer in the face because, the officer testified, he thought Spencer was trying to punch him in the face. Spencer said he was making a gesture in sign language. Spencer was later...

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