'I'm Always A Little Afraid': Communication Cards Ease Tensions Between Deaf Community, Law Enforcement

The cards have quick communication tips as well as some pictures that both the officer and the person pulled over can point to help them better communicate.

Sunday, September 17th 2023, 9:44 pm



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To most people, David Hankinson looks like a normal driver. But if he was to get pulled over, he faces a big challenge. The officer would begin to speak, but David would not be able to hear.

“Every time I get in the car, I’m always a little afraid," Hankinson signed to News On 6. An interpreter translated.

David was not born deaf, but after getting sick at age eight, he woke up completely deaf.

“I went to bed a hearing person and woke up a deaf person," he said.

Since losing his hearing, David has had many communication barriers with people, specifically those in law enforcement. But those barriers can now be broken with a communication card.

The card has quick communication tips as well as some pictures that both the officer and the person pulled over can point to help them better communicate.

“If the officer is to pull you over, it’s easy, just take this out of the visor, hold it up and it immediately communicates to the officer that the driver is deaf,” said Hankinson.

David has firsthand experience being in the driver’s seat after an officer stopped him.

“One time, yes, I was speeding, the officer pulled me over, I did not have a communication card like this," he said.

He says the moment was filled with tension for both involved, and the officer could easily have gotten the wrong idea.

“If I’m looking for a driver’s license, am I looking for a weapon? They don’t know that,” he said.

Lt. Ken Simpson with the Tulsa Police Department says in his 19 years of service, interacting with a deaf person hasn’t been very common.

But he says tools like this will keep both parties safe and help them communicate.

“Any time that we can have any kind of tool to utilize to be able to communicate better, that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Hankinson's next goal is to get these cards in the hands of all officers. And Lt. Simpson left with a whole stack.

“I do believe these will save lives, especially in a police situation,” said Hankinson.

The cards are free of charge. To get one, visit the office in Oklahoma City or Tulsa, or call the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services and they will have one sent to you.

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