Image of a truck being pulled over by a police vehicle

Talking With My Hands

*By Vernon Bonse, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator

When if police use a flashing siren, I am always aware on the roadway while driving. Police want to stop me. I will pull it off. I will calm down and control myself. It will be communicated carefully with police because of Deaf. Most police officers are not aware about Deaf behavior situations. My hands held a wheel hand and waited for police to come into my vehicle. I will show my hands to the police. I signed the “Deaf”. My hands show to police and pick up registration license and car insurance in a front pocket. Police thought gun or something weapons in pocket sometimes. It maybe would lead to misunderstanding communication. Encourage Department of Police should have Deaf and HH Awareness in-service in workshop. Police will have better knowledge about Deaf and HH behavior situations when police approach to how communicate with Deaf and HH persons.

*An explanation of this story is described below.

“I was born deaf. I have never heard English.”

-about the above story by Vernon Bonse, Independent Living Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator

A person who can hear, hears pauses and breaths, and that is how one knows
when to punctuate. A person who cannot hear the cadence or tone of a
sentence will have a different interpretation.

A person who is deaf may know the grammatical rule of punctuation, but audible
communication plays a role in the culture of written communication.

Vernon said, “In college, I was top three in grammar, but when I was writing from
my heart, the score went way down. I found out how different English was as a
written language when I was studying ASL(American Sign Language).”

Also, ASL does not need to use ‘a, the, an’; it is very different.

Vernon’s story above is about a police encounter. He talks about having to pay
close visual attention to his surroundings because he cannot hear any sirens;
instead, he will see the lights on an emergency vehicle.

In his experience, Vernon was pulled over while driving his vehicle. When a police
officer approaches and asks for a license and registration, it is expected that the
driver will hear the request, communicate movement and keep hands on the
steering wheel. A person who is deaf uses their hands to communicate. He
experienced fear knowing these expectations, but needing to use his hands to
communicate. What if the officer does not understand he is deaf? What if they
think he is reaching for something rather than signing?

Vernon is able to read and write, but not all people who are deaf do read and
write. Therefore, communicating through that method is not always viable. It
would be beneficial to emergency personnel and people who are deaf if more
training was provided to ensure an understanding in differences in culture and
communication, keeping all people involved comfortable and safe.