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July 26, 2003

Driver's ed classes come back to ISD

From: Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, IA - Jul 26, 2003

BRIEN T. BOYCE , Staff Writer

Dan Gradoville points out where he wants Daniel Lewis to go. Lewis doesn't say anything, just nods his head and turns on his blinker as he prepares to enter Glenwood's downtown section.

This is the quietest driver's education programs in Pottawattamie County. No instructors screaming instructions, no kids talking to each other. Silence isn't golden, it's a given.

That's because, for the first time in eight years, Iowa School for the Deaf has a driver's education program back on-campus.

In addition, said Gradoville, this summer marks the first time ISD had a summer driver's education program ever.

"They thought it was going to be summer school fun," Jeanette Watson, who headed up ISD's summer driver's education program, said of the students enrolled. "Wrong."

In Iowa, students are required to take 30 classroom hours and an additional six hours behind the wheel to pass a driver's education program.

While there are no special requirements for the deaf, those enrolled at ISD over the summer were required to complete the requirements in a two-week cram course before they could take the examination for their license.

Daniel Lewis, who graduated from ISD this summer, said it was difficult to know what rules to follow and to learn all of them in a short period of time.

Edlin Dorn, a senior from Des Moines, said the classroom section was grueling.

"It's a high-level, fast-paced course for me," he signed.

Nic Upchurch, another recently-graduated ISD senior, said the student council initially proposed the idea to bring a driver's education program back to the school.

In the past, ISD students who wished to take driver's education had to do so at Lewis Central High School. The problems arose when it came to interpreting for deaf students.

While some deaf students possess cochlear implants, which increases the ability for an individual with residual hearing to hear, and others can lip-read, all hearing-impaired students stand to lose information when placed in a traditional class without an interpreter.

The problem was further amplified when trying to fit the driver's education students, the instructor, and an interpreter into the vehicle. State law requires the instructor to sit in the front passenger seat.

"You can imagine how difficult it gets for the student having to pay attention to the instructor and having the interpreter sign to you," Watson said. "And it can take away from the student paying attention to what they're supposed to be doing."

Eventually, those factors - cost effectiveness and declining enrollment - led to ISD mainstreaming its program with Lewis Central.

Gradoville let Lewis drive to Glenwood. With his hands at the ten- and two o'clock position, Lewis would only take his right hand off the wheel to sign to Gradoville.

Lewis swapped with Dorn, who drove back to ISD. In the world of the hearing-impaired, there are no noises, such as the radio or friends, to pose as a distraction.

Does that make deaf drivers better? Lewis thinks so. "Our lack of hearing causes us visually to be more acute."

©Daily Nonpareil 2003