Deaf Not Allowed To Drive In India

The Centre insists authorities consider the driving licence applications of the hearing impaired if a person has been rehabilitated with hearing aids. However states are skeptical.

The Union ministry of road transport and highways had sent a letter to all the state governments in 2016. The letter mentioned the point from AIIMS which said, “Driving is primarily a visual function with little inputs from hearing.” The Centre insists authorities consider the driving licence applications of the Deaf and says if a person has been rehabilitated with hearing aids and can hear reasonably, there is little reason to prevent them from driving. In Tamil Nadu to get a licence a deaf person must get an audiometry test and if they can hear at least 60 decibels with the hearing aid they are qualified to licence. However, some people who wear hearing aids and are certified fit by a doctor said they have been denied a learner’s licence.

A few months ago, Naveen Raj Louis of Ayyapanthangal approached the Regional Transport Office (RTO) in his area to get an application, where he was reprimanded by an official for wanting to drive despite having hearing impairment. He said, “I have a two-wheeler that I bought to go to work. But without a license it is useless. Even my other deaf friend was turned away. One has to be watchful. That is why there are rear view mirrors. Let us take a test at least.”In another incident, Santhana Mohan, who is hard of hearing, had to keep following up to renew his licence. “It took me more than a year to get a new licence. The official first denied but then I had to convince him that though I have been driving for more than 20 years, not once was I involved in any accident. Finally, he accepted.” Vidya Menon, a trainer at V-Shesh, an organisation that works for the welfare of the disabled, had a licence when she was in Australia but when she came here she was denied it despite her hearing ability of more than 60 decibels.

She said, “Being aware of your surroundings and looking at indicators through mirrors are more important. Hearing aids can help pick up audio signals like horns and sirens for a few, for others it may amplify the background noise and hinder their concentration. Many tend to drive while talking on the phone or hearing loud music. But we will not.”The World Federation for the Deaf says studies have revealed that deaf drivers have been involved in fewer car accidents than the average driver. Hearing is not a necessary sense for driving a car. Denying deaf people driving licence deprives them of the mobility that gives them access to essential services, social opportunities and life in general.” An official from the RTO Chennai south west said, “There are many aspects that need to be considered. We do abide by rules and if an applicant is found fit to drive on our roads, they are not denied a license.”