Drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing could get a special symbol on their North Carolina driver’s license to smooth interactions with law enforcement.
The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday approved a bill creating the driver’s license designation and adding new training for law enforcement on how to interact with deaf people. The designation would be optional, so deaf people who don’t want it on their license could opt out.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill, said the legislation was requested by a constituent whose hard-of-hearing son had “a very unfortunate interaction with a law enforcement officer.”
Senate Rules Committee members were largely supportive of the idea, sending the bill to the Senate floor. “I think this is a step in the right direction,” said Sen. Brent Jackson, a Sampson County Republican. “It might not be perfect, but we can tweak it.”
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But some senators raised concerns that the bill doesn’t require applications for the driver’s license symbol to include a doctor’s note. They questioned if someone might pose as deaf in an effort to get more lenient treatment from law enforcement.
“This is a government issued identification,” said Sen. Michael Lee, a Wilmington Republican. “Anytime we put something on a government issued identification, we need to have done something.”
Insko, however, said the designation shouldn’t require a doctor’s note. “I do think it’s an extra barrier, and this population has enough barriers as it is,” she said.