Deaf Driver’s License Bill Passes Missouri House, Headed to Governor’s Desk
Jefferson City, MO (May 1, 2018) – On Tuesday morning, the Missouri House gave final approval to Senate Bill 814 with a unanimous bipartisan vote of 152-0. This bill changes the driver’s license code identifying a person as Deaf or Hard of Hearing from J88 to DHH. An equivalent bill—House Bill 1572—was passed by the Missouri House on February 22. As the measure has passed through both legislative bodies, it is now considered Truly Agreed to and Finally Passed and will be sent to the governor for his signature.
Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has found that most law enforcement officers are not able to quickly identify the meaning of the J88 code. Changing the characters to DHH will increase recognition, and allow officers to adapt their methods of communication. Lack of effective communication not only elongates the encounter, but it can also escalate the tension of the situation. For example, if an officer does not know that a driver is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, he may interpret the driver’s flat response to verbal commands as resistance. The DHH code will indicate that accommodations may be necessary, ranging from writing a conversation on a notepad or bringing in a sign language interpreter.
“When talking about communication solutions between law enforcement and an individual with a hearing loss, there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” said Opeoluwa Sotonwa, the Executive Director of the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. “However, it is a consensus that a quick way to identify drivers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing will be an asset to officers. The decisions they make in the moment can be the difference between safety and danger, or life and death.”
Senate Bill 814, sponsored by Senator Jeanie Riddle (R), made its way to the Senate floor by way of the Committees on Professional Registration and Joint Rules, Resolutions, and Ethics. House Bill 1572, sponsored by Representative Lyle Rowland (R), made its way quickly through the House Committees on Transportation and Rules – Administrative Oversight. In addition, these bills also charge the Missouri Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing with making videos in American Sign Language explaining the implications of the changes to the license code. The wording of the law is also altered from “hearing impaired” to “Deaf and Hard of Hearing” to be more culturally appropriate
MCDHH works with individuals, service providers, businesses, organizations, and state agencies to improve the lives and opportunities of all Deaf and Hard of Hearing Missourians. It functions as an agency of the state to advocate for public policies, regulations, and programs to improve the quality and coordination of existing services for individuals with hearing loss, and to promote new services whenever necessary. More information about MCDHH and the services it offers are available at http://mcdhh.mo.gov.