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November 27, 2002

Program to help deaf communicate with police expanding

From: Hampton Roads Daily Press, VA - 27 Nov 2002

By the Associated Press

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. -- Deaf and hearing impaired motorists throughout Virginia soon will have access to sun visor cards and wallet cards to help them communicate with police.

Visor Alert, started by Fredericksburg's disAbility Resource Center last summer, has been picked up by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and the state Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. It is expected to be implemented statewide next month.

"I am so excited," said Arva Priola, an advocate for the deaf and founder of the local program.

The disAbility Resource Center has distributed more than 1,800 visor and wallet cards that notify police officers and others that the bearer cannot hear. Priola recently showed the cards to state officials, who were "flabbergasted" that something similar wasn't already being used, said Frank Kowaleski, director of programs for the Virginia police chiefs association.

The DMV agreed to fund the statewide expansion with a $16,000 traffic safety grant. It printed 11,000 copies each of the blaze-orange visor and folding wallet cards and produced 400 copies of a training video.

The 10-minute video will be given to state and local police departments to instruct them in the best way of interacting with the deaf. Priola and others with various levels of hearing loss are actors in the video.

Both of the cards display the "broken ear," the international symbol of the hard of hearing. Those who use the visor card are instructed to attach it to the sun visor in their car and to point to it and to their ear when stopped by police. The card says, "I am deaf or hard of hearing."

The wallet card is meant to be handed to strangers. It identifies the bearer as deaf or hearing impaired and recommends the best way to communicate, such as sign language, lip reading or writing.

The cards can prevent a misunderstanding when a deaf person interacts with a police officer during a traffic stop, crime scene or crash scene, Priola said.

More than 600,000 deaf and hearing impaired people live in Virginia, according to the state Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

Copyright © 2002, Daily Press