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Ensuring police, deaf and hard of hearing communicate effectively

Posted: 1:54 PM, Aug 25, 2016
Updated: 2016-08-26 12:16:32Z

In an effort to ensure that there is effective communication between law enforcement officers and those who are deaf or hard of hearing, 10,000 visor cards were distributed to local law enforcement for their patrol vehicles, Thursday.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing began the distribution of the visor cards for use in patrol vehicles throughout Michigan. The cards are specifically designed to ensure safe and effective communication happens between police and drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“As the Sheriff of a county with a large and diverse population, our officers encounter communications roadblocks on a regular basis,” said Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth. “This tool will help us make sure our officers are understood, and help us provide the kind of service that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing deserve.”

A press conference was held at the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office, and hundreds of cards were given to law enforcement agencies participating in the event, according to a press release. The agencies included the Michigan State Police, Ingham County Sheriff’s Department and the East Lansing Police Department.

“This distribution of 10,000 communication visor cards to 10,000 patrol vehicles is the first of what I hope will be many collaborative efforts between the Division and law enforcement to ensure effective communication between police and individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing,” said Annie Urasky, Director of MDCR’s Division on Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing. “The visor card is just one tool, but it is an important start in helping ensure the safety of both drivers and police officers and limit misunderstandings. We are also working with various law enforcement agencies on training opportunities to enhance the understanding of how different levels of law enforcement may safely interact with Michiganders who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing in emergency situations.”

The cards were created as a resource for drivers were are deaf or hard of hearing to have at the ready if they interact with law enforcement officers. 

“Since we first created the visor card, the response from law enforcement has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Agustin Arbulu, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “They immediately recognized its utility in easing communication with individuals who may not be able to hear their questions or instructions. It was their response that prompted the Department of Civil Rights to make the decision to equip as many patrol cars as possible with this simple but effective tool.”

Those needing a card can call 313-437-7035 or email DODDBHH@michigan.gov with the words “Visor Card,” in the subject line. The cards can also be downloaded by clicking here.