Importance of Clear Communication Between Law Enforcement and Deaf/Hard of-Hearing individuals

IMG_4724White Plains, NY August 25, 2016 – New York School for the Deaf, also known as Fanwood, raises awareness about the importance of developing a clear communication process between law enforcement and Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing individuals.

In the wake of a tragic fatal shooting of a Deaf man from North Carolina, Inside Edition asked Fanwood for an interview to learn more about the safety of Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing (HOH) motorists.  Click HERE to view the captioned Inside Edition segment aired on 8/24/16.

When asked for comment about the North Carolina incident, NYSD Superintendent, Harold Mowl stated “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Harris family during this most-difficult time. The loss of any life, deaf or hearing, stemming from such tragic circumstances is devastating.”

Fanwood preferred to focus the discussion on what kinds of initial communication should take place between a Deaf/HOH person and a police officer. The School is using this time to focus on spreading awareness about what can be done to eliminate future incidents of this nature.

For example, in the Inside Edition segment, Jennifer Labriola-Megee, Fanwood Principal, explained what she would do if pulled over or approached by an officer. She emphasized “It’s important to wait for your instructions and not do anything. Just wait and see. When they ask for my license and registration, at that point, I would take out the items asked for.”

Dr. Mowl demonstrated a different, and very useful method of communication that can be used when interacting with law enforcement. If pulled over, Dr. Mowl would roll down his window, lower his visor, and upon the officer’s approach, he would point to a large “Deaf Driver Communication Card” that clearly displays the words “I am Deaf or Hard of Hearing”.

The card also includes instructions on what a motorist should do when pulled over, as well as tips for using the visor alert. While very helpful, not all Deaf/HOH people have access to this card. The “Deaf Driver Communication Card” was developed in collaboration by the Rochester, NY Police Department and Regional Center for Independent Living’s (RCIL) Deaf and Police Interactive Committee. This card is available in locations limited to the City of Rochester.

Currently, police departments across the nation do not have one standard policy in place with respect to how to approach and initiate communication with Deaf/HOH individuals. Fanwood maintains a strong relationship with the Greenburgh Police Department, collaborating on issues ranging from teaching students what to do when approached by a police officer to inviting officers on campus during school emergency drills.

Taking a cue from Rochester, Fanwood will be teaming up with the Greenburgh Police to develop a similar communication card that Deaf/HOH people can show law enforcement officers when approached in their car or on the street.

Over the years, Fanwood has and will continue to provide basic ASL lessons to local police departments so that they can better communicate with students, staff members, and local deaf community members.

Message From Interim Superintendent, Harold Mowl, Jr., Ph. D.


The Board of Trustees is extremely pleased to announce that we have engaged a new Interim Superintendent.   We feel extremely fortunate to have Dr. Harold Mowlbeen able to identify a highly qualified superintendent familiar with New York schools. Effective Monday, August 1, Harold Mowl, Jr., Ph. D., will join the Fanwood family. In his role, Dr. Mowl will work with the Board to search for a permanent head of School and provide leadership to the School community during this very important time, our 200th Anniversary year.

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