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Can a person drive if they are deaf?

May a deaf person drive a car?

Not everyone is allowed to drive a car. Of course, only drivers with a valid driving licence can do so. And of course, they must be properly insured.

But when is your driving licence valid and when are you sufficiently insured?

The most important thing seems to be the driving licence, as you can only benefit from your insurance rights if your driving licence is in due order. You obtain the driving licence by first passing the theory test. Then you follow a practical training course in order to pass the practical test.

Are you sure that your driving licence is or will remain valid after that? No. There are actually not two, but three exams to pass. There is a third condition that every driver of a vehicle for which a driving licence is required must fulfil. This third condition concerns health. In other words, it concerns medical aspects. Someone who is visually impaired can only get “a medical approval” under very strict conditions. Does this also apply to someone who is hard of hearing?

The answer is «no». The medical criteria set by law do not include conditions for hearing. This is not so surprising. Indeed, it is estimated that almost 90% of the information processed while driving is processed visually. Hearing information is proportionally much less important. And often what you hear in traffic also corresponds to what you see.

It is necessary to nuance the statements somewhat. There are no conditions regarding hearing, but there are preconditions regarding balance. These two functions are anatomically linked. But someone who is “only” deaf or hard of hearing should not by definition be worried about getting a driving licence.

Thus, while there is no need to worry about the validity of the driving licence, getting it in the right form can be a challenge.

Learning the theory is something that every candidate driver should do. However, a person who is hard of hearing or deaf does not benefit from verbal instructions and explanations, or to a lesser extent. As a result, he or she is more limited in communication possibilities compared to hearing candidates. The average candidate answers both written and oral questions. The deaf or hard of hearing candidate does not.

At first glance, this disadvantage may seem rather limited. However, it plays a more important role in the next phases of obtaining a driving licence. The importance of verbal communication during the practical training and the examination is not to be underestimated. As for learning to drive, you will be supervised by your instructor while you drive. You can therefore drive and listen at the same time, without having to take your eyes off the road. For the hard of hearing or deaf, it is different! What the hard of hearing or deaf candidate «hears» from the instructor, the hard of hearing or deaf candidate usually has to read it on the lips and/or use sign language or writing. Both forms of «visual communication» require a change of sight and are therefore potentially dangerous. This is an undeniable disadvantage.

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This also applies during the examination. The examiner usually gives instructions orally. The deaf or hard of hearing person is also affected in this case. Any additional straining on the visual system puts them at a disadvantage.

Of course, there are creative solutions. For example, we know that during the examination, you can use light strokes to indicate the desired direction (one stroke to the left, two strokes to the right). Physical touch is only possible when both communication partners feel comfortable. Systems where the instructor or examiner types messages on a tablet, which are then displayed on another medium that is easily visible to the candidate, can also be considered. This is a less invasive privacy infringement, but it is more «visually» demanding.

To put it briefly, a candidate who is deaf or hard of hearing can get his or her driver’s licence, but this represents an additional challenge.

«But if deaf and hard of hearing people are not necessarily dangerous drivers, why are other drivers advised not to drive while listening to loud music? It’s the same situation, isn’t it? »

The two situations are not exactly comparable. People with a hearing problem use their other senses more effectively to compensate for the possible disability. On the other hand, noisy music disturbs attention; in other words, it is a source of distraction. Hearing impairment does not have this «cognitive» disadvantage.

Mark Tant, PhD
head of CARA, Vias institute

What are the Requirements for a Deaf Driver’s License?

What are the Requirements for a Deaf Driver's License?

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.

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Today, deaf drivers have the right to legally drive in all 50 U.S. 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.

In this article you will learn:

  • Driver’s license for the deaf – rules
  • Hearing impaired driving restrictions
  • Driver’s license photo requirements

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 U.S. 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.

Like this article and want to know more? Check these out:

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

Can a person drive if they are deaf?

By Brent Lofy
Saturday, November 22, 2008

Driving and the Deaf

«Can the deaf drive?» It is a question wondered by many people, including myself. I decided to write about driving and the deaf, because I have always wondered what happens when there are loud sirens from an emergency vehicle and deaf people are not able to hear it. I remember a time when I was driving and the car in front of me had three people signing to each other. The driver was also signing. I became kind of scared because the driver kept watching the passengers sign. When I was younger, I thought the deaf community did not drive because I thought that if a person is not able to hear an emergency vehicle, then how are they supposed to move out of its’ way. After researching, I thought more about my topic and realized many things.

Hearing people have many concerns with deaf people driving. Some of the concerns, pointed out by Felicity Bleckly in «Can a Deaf Person Drive» are:

— Talking with their hands, when they should be on the wheel.
— Trying to lip read a passenger while driving.
— Not being able to hear emergency vehicles coming.
— Not being able to call for help if their car breaks down.
— Not being able to talk to an officer if they are pulled over.
— Not being able to hear warnings their car is giving them.

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In many places deaf people are allowed to drive. But for at least 26 countries, deaf citizens are not allowed to have a license («Living With Deafness»). Also in many of the states, deaf drivers are required to have a special license to be able to identify themselves as deaf. It is ridiculous that people are scared to let the deaf community drive, because if a person actually thinks about it, deaf drivers may be the better drivers on the road.

An excellent statement that really got me thinking was said in «Many People Think Deaf People Should Not Drive» by Fookem and Bug. The line stated that «driving is an almost completely visual activity for anyone. How many drivers watch the road with their ears?» The statement is totally true. Many hearing people are not even listening to the surroundings when driving in the first place. Many hearing drivers are talking on the phone, blasting their music, or talking to their passenger/s. If someone doubts deaf drivers, they need to think about how deaf people have «excellent use of peripheral vision and lack of reliance on hearing» («Frequently Asked Questions»). Most deaf drivers are much more aware of their surroundings than hearing drivers who are distracted by all of the things are around them. That is why I agree that most deaf drivers are the better drivers on the road.

After researching more about the deaf and driving, I realize why there are deaf drivers. I read many blogs of people asking if deaf people can drive and the deaf community answering back with great answers. By researching and writing this blog, I have come to realize why deaf drivers may be the better drivers on the road. Knowing that there are deaf drivers makes me feel MUCH safer than knowing little old ladies are on the road driving. Haha.

Bleckly, Felicity, ed. «Can A Deaf Person Drive?» Bella Online. 22 Nov. 2008 .

Fookem, and Bug, eds. «Many People Think Deaf People Should Not Drive.» Fookem and Bug. 6 May 2007. 22 Nov. 2008 .

«Frequently Asked Questions.» WA Deaf Society Inc. 22 Nov. 2008 .

«Living With Deafness.» Deaf Culture. PBS. 22 Nov. 2008 .

Also see: «Deaf Drivers»

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