The right to drive a vehicle is not reserved only for those who have perfect hearing. In fact, according to studies, deaf persons who are older than 15 usually tend to have much better (about 20%) peripheral vision than individuals with good hearing. In fact, deaf drivers today are not only able to obtain a non-commercial license, but also a commercial one allowing them to drive a commercial vehicle.
However, deaf people didn’t always have the rights they have today. The 1920s saw a huge boom in car production and many states were just beginning to implement their first motor vehicle laws.
Many of these laws denied deaf people the right to enjoy driving – around 4 states refused to let the deaf drive. It took educating and convincing the general public that deaf drivers were just as capable of driving as their hearing counterparts and did not pose any threats to public safety for the National Association of the Deaf and their Automobile Bureau to be finally able to contribute to overturning the discriminatory driving laws.
Today, deaf drivers have the right to legally drive in all 50 US states, however they’re still not always treated equally in some situations. Up until the year 2006, UPS didn’t hire deaf drivers due to safety concerns.
Still today, some deaf persons get rejected when trying to rent a car or test a new one at a car dealership. In cases of accidents, deaf drivers have to constantly prove that they’re not the ones to blame, because of their disability, despite the fact that very often deaf people drive a lot more carefully than others.
Driver’s license for the deaf – rules
Sadly, to many people the idea of a deaf driver is so absurd that they just can’t wrap their head around it. Some just don’t believe that someone who has trouble hearing can drive safely with the same ability as hearing people. However, realistically speaking, hearing is not as important a sense when it comes to driving as is good eyesight.
For those of you who are wondering about how deaf people manage to handle things such as being able to hear sirens, honking, background noise, or an ambulance or a fire truck, here is the answer: there are different hearing aids and rules to follow that can facilitate the driving experience for the deaf.
For example, there are electronic devices that use lighted panels to alert the driver of the outside sounds, among other solutions. Deaf drivers also pay attention to flashing lights or cues from other drivers. Another issue is communicating with police officers when being pulled over.
Many deaf people in the US carry state-issued cards that read “I Am Deaf or Hard of Hearing”. They are shown to police officers to let them know they are hearing impaired, so that the police officers can communicate with them differently, for example, by writing notes on a piece of paper or in a notebook. Others also rely on lip reading and don’t carry the cards at all.
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Hearing impaired driving restrictions
When it comes to applying for a license, deaf people follow the same steps as hearing drivers. Apart from the standard driving procedures, such as getting the learner’s permit, practicing driving, or taking a pre-licensing course, deaf people must also inform the DMV of their hearing difficulty.
People who are hard of hearing are required to report it to their local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) before they can apply for a driver license. The DMV will then determine whether a “hearing aid or full-view mirror (F) restriction” is required on their driver license card. The driver license for someone who is hearing impaired will have the international symbol of the deaf on it or a numerical code.
If an individual’s driver license has a restriction, he or she is required to use a hearing aid while driving and their car must have full-view mirrors. The mirrors (both inside and outside) must comply with DMV’s criteria.
There are also many schools for the deaf that offer driver and safety education programs. If you’re hard of hearing and looking to get a driver license, you can find a driving school for the deaf near you to help you move through the driving license application process more smoothly.
While it is optional, a deaf driver also has the possibility to apply for the International Symbol of Access for Hearing Loss to have it added to their license.
Driver’s license photo requirements
As we mentioned earlier, hearing impaired persons follow the same steps in getting their driver’s license as hearing people. Along with the standard application there may be some additional steps to follow, however; for example in the state of New Jersey, Form BA-208 must be filed along with verification of the person’s hearing condition from a doctor.
The photo criteria for a driver license card are very similar to those for other documents – the photo must be in color, 2″ x 2″ in size, taken against a white background, without any accessories or headwear that would obscure the face.
Nowadays, all document photos can be taken online, only with the use of an app and a smartphone. Continue reading if you’re curious to find out how to take your own driver’s license photo at home without having to be on the hunt for photo booths or drugstores.
Passport Photo Online
Passport Photo Online is a great mobile app that is sure to facilitate the process of taking your document photos (not only for a driver’s license, but also passport, ID, visa, and more!). It has a built in AI system that scans each photo, checking the measurements and cropping it where necessary.
The service offers you either a printout of your document photo for $9.95, or a digital print-ready copy sent to your email address for $6.95. The app is 100% sure that your photos will be accepted by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and if, for some reason, they get rejected (which they surely won’t, but it’s worth a mention), then you’ll get back double the amount you paid!
Passport Photo Online has been praised by Yahoo!, Glamour, Forbes, National Geographic, and more. If you’re applying for a driver license and are looking to take your photo yourself, make use of our photo tool and be sure that it will get approved by the authorities.
To sum up, despite the preconceived notions about hearing impaired people’s ability to drive, they can apply for a driver license the same way that hearing people do. Deaf drivers have different hearing aids at their disposal, which assist them in situations such as, for example, being able to hear emergency sirens or some background noise.
Deaf persons tend to have much better visual abilities and are usually more concerned with safety on the road, which often makes them even better drivers than their hearing counterparts.
Can a deaf person get a driver license?
Yes, a deaf person can apply for a driver license and drive a vehicle.
What are the restrictions for deaf drivers?
Not all, but some deaf drivers will have the international symbol of the deaf (or a numerical code) on their license.
-  https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/license-id/driver-licenses/
-  https://www.nad.org/commercial-drivers-licenses/
Magda is an art & travel expert who is passionate about all things late-Victorian, history, languages, casa museos, Spain, and food illustration. She is a specialist in the field of biometric photography. Magda also loves reading, creative writing, and hanging out with her three cats.