Updated visor card facilitates communication between Delaware police and deaf or hard of hearing

By Craig Anderson
Posted 9/15/21

DOVER — It’s less wordy and communicates through more images.

Best of all, the redesigned Visor Communication Card just might save a life.

A host of project partners attended a …

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Updated visor card facilitates communication between Delaware police and deaf or hard of hearing

Delaware Association of the Deaf President Feta Fernsler discusses the visor communication card.
Delaware State News/Craig Anderson
Posted

DOVER — It’s less wordy and communicates through more images.

Best of all, the redesigned visor communication card just might save a life.

A host of project partners attended a rollout ceremony in front of the Dover Police Department early Tuesday afternoon to extol the benefits of holding the card.

The automobile visor cards are designed to allow better communication between law enforcement officers and those who are deaf or hard of hearing during a vehicle stop.

Through an interpreter, Delaware Association of the Deaf President Feta Fernsler signed that, “I noticed that the old visor card used a lot of English.

“It was very wordy, so in the event of a traffic stop, law enforcement doesn’t really have time to sit and read a novel.

“Also, the driver may not be fully fluent in English, which is very common given that (American Sign Language) is their primary language.

“I wanted to make sure that the communication between law enforcement and deaf and hard of hearing drivers was as efficient and safe as possible.”

As to the redesign, Mr. Fernsler explained that, “We switched to the icons to represent what they would need to communicate most often to help reduce the stress level on both parts.

“Often officers have no idea what they’re walking up to and we want to make sure there is no miscommunication that results in feeling the need of a firearm.

“We want to deescalate things before they get out of hand all because of miscommunication.”

Representing the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson Jr. said the goal is to have every officer in the state carrying the card.

The cards allow officers to point to an icon representing the item they need to see, including a driver’s license, car registration, car insurance, a gun permit or a medical card.

Also through pointing to an icon, law enforcement can explain that a ticket is being issued, arrest being made or a warning given.

If there’s a situation requiring help, such as being lost, a flat tire, needing a tow truck, being out of gas, or needing a trip to the hospital, officers can ask via the card.

Also, police can point to a violation being enforced, including, among others, stop sign, window tint, speed limit, stop light and more.

On the other side of the card are communication tips for deaf or hard of hearing motorists to police during interactions:

• Get my attention first.

• Make eye contact when you speak.

• Not all deaf or hard of hearing people can lip-read.

• Shouting does not help.

• A hearing aid or cochlear implant does NOT allow me to understand everything you say.

• Shining a flashlight in my face may make it hard for me to understand you.

Additionally, a motorist can point to his her communication mode, including writing, sign language and lip-reading.

Department of Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Nathaniel McQueen Sr., who oversees Delaware State Police, described the project as “a long road but a good road.

“These improved cards, one for motor vehicles and wallet-sized cards for pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, will help law enforcement better serve deaf and hard of hearing drivers.

“We know that better communications lead to better outcomes and these cards will help deaf and hard of hearing drivers communicate more effectively with law enforcement.”

Among the other speakers were DSP trooper Lt. Mark Little and his brother, Seaford PD Lt. Russ Little. They spoke on their experiences growing up with deaf parents and the importance and then-challenges of properly communicating with officers during interactions.

The visor communication card debuted in 2009 via the Delaware Office for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing. The redesign project began in 2020, with the Delaware Association of the Deaf, the Independent Resources Inc., the State Council for Persons with Disabilities, the Delaware Police Chiefs’ Council, and the Delaware Division of  Motor Vehicles, among others, taking part.