Deaf Justice Coalition

Criminal Justice, Deaf Justice Coalition, Disability Justice

A visor card issued to drivers with hearing challenges in New York to help them communicate with police

Nearly 700,000 City residents are Deaf or hard of hearing. Despite clear legal requirements, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) systematically fails to provide effective communication during interactions with individuals who are Deaf. Problems include officers questioning or even arresting Deaf people for allegedly using gang signs — when in fact they are using American Sign Language. The inability to hear an officer’s orders can be mistaken as resisting arrest. Without interpreters, Deaf crime victims may be forced to exchange written notes to file reports about incidents as sensitive and complex as domestic violence. These practices often lead to inaccurate statements and impede attempts to obtain relief, including orders of protection. NYLPI convened the Deaf Justice Coalition to identify barriers; organize and educate the Deaf community; and develop a legal response. After several years of negotiation, NYPD last year launched a pilot program equipping officers with tablet computers for video ASL interpreting and requiring the NYPD to provide in-person interpreting on request. In response to our advocacy the City forecasts complete Deaf access to 911 in 2019.

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