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Deaf Persons Having Rights to Drive

I would like to inform Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authourity (DVLA)
that under the Disability Law- Persons With Disability Act 715, 2006,
Article 27, a person with a hearing disability has right to own a
driving licence after passing driving test and satisfying the
conditions.

Hearing disability means the conditions in which individuals are fully
or partially unable to detect or perceive at least some frequencies of
sound. It also refers to deafness, hearing impairment or hard of
hearing as any dictionary describes clearly. Under the law, the deaf
people (persons with hearing disabilities or impairments) are allowed
to own the licence.

Under the Disability law, Article 7- Access to the Public Services,
the public agencies should grant the requests the persons with hearing
disability look for.


According to the law, Article 4 (1), the persons with any type of
disabilities should not be discriminated by the governmental agencies
and may not be neglected when they seek for their needs.


In the pursuance of the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of
Persons with Disabilities, Article 29, Ghanaian governmental agencies
shall guarantee to persons with disabilities political rights and the
opportunity to enjoy them on an equal basis with others.


On July 4, 2011, as a hearing impaired person, I approached the
Driving and Vehicle Licencing Authourity (DVLA) headquarters at
Cantonment in Accra for a driving licence. I was invited to the DVLA
office to request the licence along with section 27 of the Act 715,
2006.

As one of the staff of DVLA Office was aware I am deaf and could not
talk, he asked if I could read and write and we wrote note each other.
He said that my hearing examination may be required to submit medical
report so that it would let him see if I can hear the levels of sound
with aid of hearing aids before granting the request. I did not agree
with his opinion and asked him why it is required.

He said with authourity’s concern the medical report may be necessary
because the deaf drivers could be a source of the danger to the road
users. However, I could not agree with him. I was so disappointed very
much that DVLA might go on discriminating against the persons with
hearing impairment. I had showed to him the Section of the Act 715,
2006 that a person with hearing disability is allowed to own driving
licence.

I told there are many deaf drivers in Africa who could drive on road
and see carefully emergency sirens and horns on basis of rearing
view-mirrors without hearing any sound and have very good views rather
than hearing sounds when driving on the roads.

According to World Federation of Deaf (WFD), there are no known
reports that deaf drivers are a threat to other road users in the
countries where deaf people are allowed to obtain a driving licence,
or that they are involved in more traffic accidents or injuries than
the general population. The deaf drivers are better than hearing ones
based on respecting the road safety regulations and viewing at
rear-mirrors fully on the roads. There are some deaf drivers in Africa
who could drive without any traffic accident.

All but 26 countries in the world have allowed people who are deaf to
drive as long as they pass the test regardless of the degree of
hearing loss. It should not be an impediment for the deaf people to
enjoy the right of driving which is a civic of free movement
guaranteed by Disability Act. It is not a problem for the deaf people
to learn how to drive. They can learn to drive through visual
instructions – hand motions, eye contact and visual aids. There are
many deaf drivers in world that could drive on road and see carefully
emergency sirens and horns on basis of rearing view-mirrors without
hearing any sound and have very good views rather than hearing sounds
when driving on the roads.


Deaf people are capable of becoming good drivers because they drive
safely. Though their sense of hearing is impaired or non-functional,
yet their other senses and reactions are naturally trained to be
extremely acute which is an advantage over the hearing drivers and,
therefore, it is logical to allow them to have legalized driver’s
licence. However, he decided to write the letter for hearing
examination but I could not complain with the authourity because I
thought they may not know the law allowing the persons with hearing
disability to hold licence and drive.


After note writing, the director of one department of DVLA gave me a
draft letter attached to my passport-size photo to be given to the
audiology center, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, Accra for hearing
examination. Approaching the hospital, I presented the letter to one
of staff of audiology department. In a one week later I was undergone
hearing examination by audiologist who knows at the least sign
language. As I was told I purchased a pair of old or used hearing aids
from the department. Also I was given a medical report.

Finally, one day later with wearing my hearing aids I went to the DVLA
office for submission of medical report. As I was told by the
receptionist I should sit on sofa for 3 hours waiting as director was
not reported earlier to work. I was not happy that was why some staff
were not reporting earlier to work and even many people sitting with
me waited so long as much as 5 hours. After three hours, when director
appeared I faced him looking unfriendly. I was invited to sit in the
room looking like a conference so we discussed, then I showed my
hearing aid and medical report to him. As on how communication was I
could write on note. However, this seemed him to change his mind as he
asked I could hear any sound when driving on roads and they need any
interpreter who knows sign language. I responded to them I could hear
at the least frequencies of sound with aid of hearing aids but for me
I could watch carefully with aid of view rear-mirrors when I drive
without hearing aids. I was told that I could come to the DVLA next
one and half weeks. I was disappointed so much that the hearing
impaired people are suffered from delay of their request for the
licence by Ghana government.

Road accidents among the hearing people have been common even though
they can hear and pass the test to get driving licence. Therefore,
there is difference between them and deaf people who are still driving
without any tangible report of accidents with or without licence.

Driving gives one a sense of independence, pride, self-esteem, and
belongingness, and rejection thereof tantamount to violation of civil
right and a case of prejudice and chauvinism of the dominant society.

It is not a problem for the deaf people to learn how to drive. They
can learn to drive through visual instructions – hand motions, eye
contact and visual aids.

When deaf people drive, they enjoy a basic privilege they deserve just
like anyone else. It also demonstrates that deafness does not have to
hinder the quality of life.

Public transport can benefit from having more deaf drivers on the
roads. Studies conducted by different researchers (in different
countries where deaf people are allowed driver’s licence) comparing
deaf drivers to hearing drivers suggest that deaf drivers have fewer
accidents and traffic violations than hearing people do. It is
possible that deaf people drive more safely because they have better
concentration. Having impaired hearing improves other senses making
deaf people more sensitive to movement and visual surroundings.

If deaf people are allowed to drive, it could decrease prejudice by
changing the public’s misconceptions about deaf drivers. In turn,
decreased prejudices could help eliminate discrimination against deaf
drivers in public policy.

The disqualification for driver’s licence does not rest with the deaf
people themselves, but with the environmental and attitudinal barriers
of the society and those that govern the system. We cannot and, even
it is not possible to change an inclement environment, yet we can
adapt to the environment by changing our attitude. The world is
replete with human, cultural and linguistic diversity and other
natural inclemencies that we are not compatible with. The same holds
true where the deaf people are concerned who is a part of the human
diversity as a natural process and also as recognized by the UNO.
Although the deaf people are disqualified for holding licence due to
poor and congested Ghanaian road conditions, yet the situation can be
adjusted with special provisions through legal adaptations, additional
rear view mirrors, special signal stickers/labels, public awareness,
ban on non-motorized and slow moving stray vehicles from the main and
busy roads that are the distinct features created in the rest of the
world facilitating an accessible environment for the deaf people to
drive safely and smoothly and obtaining driver’s licence. Driving cars
is not a problem for the deaf people who can drive judiciously,
smoothly and safely with the brain instead of the ears.

Disability to hear and unsafe road conditions don’t justify
disqualification from obtaining licence that contradicts justice and
atrophy the concept of accessibility, empowerment and independent
life. Legal adaptations and improving road conditions are the way out
to enable them to qualify for retaining the civic and legal right of
driving.

The “UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities” states
that national and state governments are obliged to consult with people
with disabilities through their representative organizations when
developing and implementing legislation and policies to effectuate
their rights.

I am appearing to the government to recruit and employ any interpreter
who has skills and experience in Sign Language and Deaf Culture (SLDC)
at DLVA so the deaf drivers could get comfortable when they read
interpretations and even the signal sticker/ label should be shown
with “Deaf Driver (DD)” or “Handicapped (H)” on front transparent
glass of the cars, trotroes, buses, trucks, etc so police would have
to understand the DD or H symbol when emergency is met. There is no
problem for DD or H sticker.

Therefore, as person with hearing disability, I am appealing to DVLA
to grant the deaf people a driving licence and even the DVLA signal
sticker/ label should be launched and shown with “Deaf Driver (DD)” or
“Handicapped (H)” on front transparent glass of the cars, trotroes,
buses, trucks, etc so police would have to understand they have right
to drive who have the DD or H symbol when emergency is met. There is
no problem for DD or H sticker. I intend to establish the association-
Ghana Deaf and Hard of Hearing Drivers Association (GDHDA) which would
make awareness of deaf ability to drive in the country soon and urge
the government to grant the persons with hearing disability their
needs.

Johnson Dei-Kusi

Hearing Impaired Person

Ledzokuku-Krowor Municipal Association of the Deaf (LEKMAD)

Teshie-Nungua, Accra

deafjohnson@in.com