How can you safely interact with law enforcement as a hearing-impaired individual?

On Behalf of Longman Jakuback

Having some type of hearing impairment can make any interaction with law enforcement scary. Officers may not be aware of your condition and expect you to respond in ways you cannot.

Officers often will use verbal commands, and if you cannot hear, it puts you in a bad situation where officers could believe you are refusing to comply. The Department of Justice explains officers must have training in how to deal with hearing-impaired individuals, but there are also things you can do to help make the situation better.

Alert to your condition

One of the first things you should do upon an officer approaching you is to make the officer aware you have a hearing impairment. You can signal with your hands, but a clear way to communicate is through writing. There is little room for misunderstanding if you write it down.

Request accommodations

Law enforcement must provide you with accommodations when possible. This might include an interpreter or helping you communicate in writing. You should request accommodations if the current method of communicating is not working.

Make aware of limitations

If an officer is assuming you can read lips but you cannot, make sure he or she is aware. You can avoid misunderstandings and further issues by being upfront about not understanding. If the area in which you are is too noisy for you to understand the officer, then make that clear. You have the right to speak up and ensure you can understand the officer.

An officer should never assume anything about your abilities, but it can happen. If you both work together, you should be able to avoid problems during the interaction.

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