In road traffic, everyone makes their own experiences wherever they go. It poses special challenges for people with hearing impairments – whether as pedestrians, cyclists or motorists: especially now in the upcoming darker seasons, when hearing loss can be less easily compensated through the eyes. Her personal experiences are described here by Renee Iseli, a blogger with severe hearing loss – Smits
Grüezi Dear Readers! Recently I have been driving a car again after years without driving. The public transport system here in Switzerland is so good that I haven’t driven a car or hardly ever since I moved here. Considering the effort to get my driver’s license, I think that’s a pity. I have only had my driver’s license for about 15 years. I managed the theory directly, but in practice it was a different story. I had some difficulty to understand my driving instructor for instance, because the reading of his lips is not particularly recommended during driving. Therefore I am still very proud of my driving licence.
Sometimes I am also asked whether hearing-impaired people can drive a car at all and whether it is safe. Yes, we can and it is safe! What we don’t hear, we compensate visually. So it has happened to me before that I heard a siren only after I had seen the blue lights in the rear-view mirror.
And how many good hearing people are there who turn up the music loudly in the car? They don’t hear anything except their music and they aren’t trained in visual compensation either.
The road traffic in general, however, has its challenges in store for hearing-impaired people. When I was riding my bicycle in Amsterdam, I often received head shakes or angry looks because I apparently hadn’t heard the bel ringing.
In Germany and here in Switzerland I had to get used to the fact that the sidewalk is usually shared by both pedestrians and cyclists. I still get heart palpitations because as a pedestrian I don’t hear the cyclists coming from behind and it scares me when suddenly a bike passes me close by.
I therefore often look around me on the road. Unless I am distracted or on the road with others. Then I have to concentrate on the conversation in such a way that my conversation partners occasionally have to draw my attention to the fact that someone wants to pass me by.
There are special small signs that can be stuck on the bike or jacket to indicate that you are hearing impaired. For some people this can be a fine solution. Personally, I feel more comfortable only sharing my hearing impairment with people when I want to. In addition, it is questionable whether people recognize and correctly interpret the sign as they drive past.
Finally, a tip for all hearing-impaired drivers: make sure that you always have a starting-cable ready in the car if you don’t hear the warning signal for the car lighting when leaving the car and forget to check it yourself …
Your Renee Iseli-Smits