The Edmonton Police Service, in partnership with Deaf & Hear Alberta, has developed a new tool to help police officers and drivers with hearing loss communicate more effectively with one another.
“We understand that being stopped by police can be a stressful situation for a motorist, and even more so if there is a communication barrier between you and that officer,” says Const. Trevor Claydon, with EPS Traffic Services.
“Last year I had an interaction with a Deaf driver where communication was a concern. I wanted to do something more to help us understand each other better, break down the barriers, and reduce the stress during the traffic stop.”
Const. Claydon discovered that police agencies across North America had similar problems, and some had created information cards to aid with communication. This prompted the traffic constable to work with Edmonton’s Deaf and hard of hearing community to develop a similar tool to meet the needs of both officers and drivers.
The card’s design is simple and straightforward, with common visual symbols and text that can be pointed at by either party to facilitate conversation.
One side of the card informs the officer that the driver has hearing loss, provides communication tips, as well as the best options to communicate with the particular driver. Side two includes the various reasons for the traffic stop, what documentation the officer may require from the driver, and symbols for the driver to request various forms of assistance.
Drivers are encouraged to keep the card in their vehicles where it is easily accessible, preferably on their sun visor or with their vehicle documents. EPS officers involved in vehicle stops will also carry the card in their police cruiser.
Cards are available free of charge to the public at all EPS division stations, as well as at the Deaf and Hear Alberta office located in the Alberta School for the Deaf.
The new communication card is one of the many ways that EPS is working together with the Deaf and hard of hearing community to address their needs, reduce barriers, and improve public safety.
“EPS officers deal with members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community on a regular basis, and while we utilize Text with 911 and TTY technology for emergency and complaint calls, and offer training and interpreters when needed, we can still face challenges communicating one-on-one,” says Deputy Chief Greg Preston.
“The visual nature of the card will help us share information more effectively and bridge these communication gaps, so we can continue to provide the same level of service to all members of the community.”
In Canada, Deaf persons are entitled to equal treatment and access to services under the law. The Canadian Hearing Society reports that there are 3.15 million Canadians who are hard of hearing, and 340,000 who are deaf.
It is a common misconception that Deaf people do not drive. Driving tests are the same for everyone, and hearing is not a factor for auto insurance. Numerous studies have recognized that individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing are as safe as drivers who can hear.
“Whether you have a mild hearing loss or profound deafness, hearing less does not mean living less,” says Cindy Pilz, Deaf Services Manager with Deaf & Hear Alberta.
“Our vision is a world where the Deaf, hard of hearing, and those at risk of hearing loss, are recognized and respected so they can fully participate in society, and this placard aims to do just that. With the placard in place, I feel it will make a huge impact, and this initiative shows how much the Edmonton Police Service really cares for our community.”
For more information, please visit www.edmontonpolice.ca/communicationcard.