When Yael Lenga, 15, was learning how to drive, her mother, Tara Lenga, was especially concerned because Yael is hard of hearing. She approached the Buffalo Grove Police Department to see whether it had any stickers or cards to alert officers that a driver may be deaf or hard of hearing.
Buffalo Grove Police Lt. Michael Rodriguez said she spoke with Officer Matthew Mills of the department's community relations unit, who found visor cards designed by the Achieving Independence and Mobility Center for Independent Living.
If an officer approaches a car, the hearing-impaired driver can point to the visor, which indicates their status to police. The cards now are available free at the front desk at police headquarters. Rodriguez said police have already handed out more than 20.
Rodriguez told the village board at last week's meeting about the cards, which he said will improve communication.
"I think it's great that the police department acted so quickly," Tara Lenga said.
The card, which will be of use during a traffic stop, alerts the officer that the driver is hearing-impaired. It contains communication tips for the officer, such as "Be sure there is light for me to see you (please don't shine the light in my face because then that means I can't see you)."
In the event of an arrest, it tells the officer how to contact a licensed sign-language interpreter.
In addition, the card offers visual cues to the officer that allow them to indicate the nature of the violation, such as a stop sign or traffic light.
"If I'm pulled over and I'm having trouble hearing or communicating with the officer," Yael Lenga said, "this placard allows me to help the officer communicate with me and to make sure that here are no problems. It just makes sure that we as a community are all safe and all protected."
Because older people sometimes have trouble hearing, Tara added, "It's good for the senior citizens as well."