Thursday, 21 May 2015

Learning to drive: driving tests & Snowy

Kelly Gorman, Northern Ireland, profoundly deaf since birth and sign language user

I had a driving lesson just before my driving test to warm up but still got nervous! I didn't know what to expect when it was time to arrive at the test centre after what happened on my first driving test! Major communication breakdown on my first driving test.

After being stressed for a while I told myself that I didn't care if I fail my driving test again so I didn't apply so much pressure on me. I still ended up being nervous not knowing who I would get for my driving test. Thankfully my examiner was so lovely and I understood him.

It was clear that I was nervous but my nerves soon disappeared when I started driving and could understand my examiner at the same time. The examiner could tell I was nervous I'm sure! I could tell by his facial expression and body language :) 

Ended up stalling at the traffic lights with cars waiting behind me, I thought SHIT!!! But I stayed calm during stalling so I started again and checked the mirrors etc trying my best not to get frustrated at myself. That was hard haha. My test was at 3.50pm so I expected a bit of traffic. Traffic = a lot of stupid impatient jerks but thankfully it wasn't so bad yeooo!

Admittedly baby tears were running down on my face when I realised I did actually passed. I gave the examiner 'Are you serious?' look. About 5 minutes later, when the examiner was doing the paperwork, I realised baby tears were running and I couldn't stop. I thought 'FUCK' I wasn't going to do this but I couldn't help myself. I was SOOOOO relieved to have passed and never have to do driving lessons & tests ever again. No more stress. It was OVER! How embarrassing!

Now I absolutely LOVE driving my car Snowy. I did feel weird and nervous driving on my own for the first time after passing my test. My confidence soon increased day by day and went on the motorway 3 days after passing my test for NDCS event.

Learning to drive: discrimination

Kelly Gorman, Northern Ireland, profoundly deaf since birth and sign language user

Discrimination and driving lessons: MAJOR learning curve! It left me determined to do something for deaf people who want to learn to drive but now I’ve passed my driving test I don’t know what to do next for deaf people who want to learn to drive. We, deaf people, know we face discrimination daily and can’t change the world by ourselves if we don’t always get the support and help!

The real challenge was finding someone who would take me on. I waited a while to begin my driving lessons after passing my theory test as I was away for a bit.

There were quite few negative replies saying they refuse to take me on as their pupil. I only mentioned I’m deaf, most of them didn’t bother to ask me questions such as if I can lip-read or hear using cochlear implant/hearing aids.

Some of them didn't bother to reply back to my emails & text messages. Do the word 'deaf' scare them or what?! Pathetic! They should be ashamed of themselves. I would love to name & shame them! But I’m better than them :)

I never want to take driving lessons and tests ever again. Happy to have passed my 12353456576554 tests(!) Would love to see driving instructors on the road and look them in the eye knowing I'm in my car, having them realising they shouldn't have turned me away and that deaf people CAN drive :)

Trying to book my driving tests were a complete nightmare. I wanted to book them online but wasn't allowed because apparently I 'need' extra time for my deafness. Pfft!

I rang few different people to talk about driving test and trying to book it. I got told many different things by a lot of different people(!) So I complained and asked to talk to their manager/boss. My phone bill was high that month! :) I soon got furious when I read what they said to me and I then ranted to them on the phone, sorry but not sorry!
PS I rang them using my mini com & type talk 

What I got told: If I turn up at the test centre without booking extra time they would turn me away resulting in a fail and a waste of my money, and that I need to have extra time because the examiners would need it for paperwork. I didn't understand that part. I got told more silly stuff. I made sure they knew I was furious at what they were saying to me. So I went on and on about wanting to be equal as hearing people and asked them to explain again why would I need extra time when I didn't ask for it. Sure some deaf people might want it but I didn't want any extra time. I didn't want to be stressed on my driving test day but I ended up being nervous wreck remembering what I've been told on the phone.

I was always confident with my driving but did make silly mistakes on the test because it was horrible not understanding the examiner. Major communication breakdown resulting in me being so distracted and worrying about the examiner. There's not enough deaf aware examiners unfortunately. I wasn't surprised to hear that I failed.

Driving instructors did make me feel like being deaf was hard work! Lost confidence few times that I actually wanted to give up. I'm saying it again: there are not enough deaf aware examiners and instructors. 

During the process of looking around for instructors to passing my test it wasn’t my job to reassure people that I don’t bite and I can drive.

I had to get a car early before passing my test to keep me motivated. Even named my car Snowy haha and just thought of Snowy many times during my driving lessons & test so I didn’t give up. Thankfully I didn’t give up and love driving Snowy around. 

Learning to drive: driving lessons

Kelly Gorman, Northern Ireland, profoundly deaf since birth and sign language user

I booked driving lessons before I went away on my trips. As soon as I got back from my trips, I started my driving lessons. First lesson I thought it was okay until the instructor finished the lesson an hour early and booked me in for two weeks later. Just before the second lesson I found out from the driving school that the instructor ‘decided’ he wasn’t confident in teaching a deaf person, me! Oh nice(!)

Started getting stressed as I didn’t want to wait long to have lessons again. I went on social network websites to see who often update their driving school pages/websites. I noticed a few of them do update their pages/websites often so I contacted them knowing they can see my messages. It worked because one of them replied back to me asking suitable questions. Once I answered them, he replied if we could meet up. We met up not long after and communication was great – he didn’t know sign language by the way but I could lip-read him. He had confidence in teaching me to drive.

Coping with the lessons and learning how to drive I lip-read in the lessons, I studied materials on his websites and also his i-Pad was used to show me stuff like driving around the roundabouts so it was visual and make it more easy for me to understand how driving work on the road etc.

It did take me a while to work out other ways of feeling the bite. Eventually I found a better way to feel the bite. At first I could tell by the car slightly moving but it wasn't the best way because I found I couldn't react more quickly as I spent too much time looking for the bite. Soon later I realised I could feel the bite through feeling the steering wheel which was the best way because I soon reacted more quickly on the move. Everyone's different. Some people rely on the sound of the engine. Some people rely on the vibrations on their seat. Mine was feeling the vibrations on the steering wheel. There's other ways too. 

Communicating whilst driving wasn't too bad. Extra car mirror was put on the window in front of me so I could lip-read the instructor whilst on the move. It was easy at first but then it soon got more difficult because I was getting confident driving on the road knowing what to do next without needing the instructor telling me what to do apart from giving me directions. So I had to keep my eyes on the road and we agreed to not talk much when driving. Instead he just mouthed short words to the mirror for me lipreading such as traffic lights go left etc or roundabouts 2nd left. 

Admittedly after each lesson I was so worn out because I was learning to drive as well as communicating such as lip-reading etc.

Months later I passed my driving test. It wasn’t the first test I took. I never want to take driving lessons and tests ever again. It’s in the past; I’m focused on the fact that my life is much easier now I can get around easily. Music blaring in my car, snacks ready to be eaten by friends and me, and charging my iPhone on the move. Life is good.

I may be deaf but it’s not my job to teach deaf awareness 24/7 I’m happy to teach deaf awareness when I’m hired to do it though.

Note to driving instructors all over the world okay I mean Northern Ireland :) we, deaf people, are paying you to teach us to drive yet you expect us to teach you a lot about deaf awareness. Pfft! It’s okay to talk about communication needs in the car.

Months ago, I got asked if I'm happy to take a part in some BBC show about learning to drive as deaf person. In the first place I said yes, but now I've no idea. Just wait and see.

Don't give up! 

Learning to drive: theory test

Kelly Gorman, Northern Ireland, profoundly deaf since birth and sign language user

I took my theory test in July 2014 and passed the first time easily unlike my driving test! Everyone learn at different pace but for me I found it easy I was more annoyed about the five weeks wait to take the theory test. I used CD-ROM ( Unsure if it’s the right word! ) I studied for a bit nightly for around a week then swotted up again just before my theory test.

I booked my theory test on-line unlike my driving test which i had to book via phone. I will explain in my next few posts. My test was taken in the city, I wasn't nervous at all but didn't get my hopes up knowing a lot of people have failed their theory test. I hoped for the best! I didn't tell anyone about my theory test so I went on my own.

I had to tell someone on the ground floor my name then my name was ticked off the list and I went upstairs for the reception. Once I signed in the reception, they asked me if I had anything in my pockets etc to make sure I wasn't cheating. Felt like I was in school! Haha

Then I was leaded to a private room, whoo, after confirming my name again. One of the female staff asked me if I wanted to use headphones etc I told her I didn't need it I would just rely on the screen to see everything. Then she left and I started my test. Finished early so I left my room and got told to go to the reception for the results. I tried to read the reception staff's faces to see if I have failed or passed but they didn't give anything away until I read my results in a letter they gave me.

I soon smiled when I saw I passed! Then the reception staff started to smile and I then left the building happy knowing I got it out of the way.

But the real challenge was after that, finding someone who would take me on. I waited a while to begin my driving lessons after passing my theory test as I was away for a bit.

In all, for my theory test, the process was great. It was easy booking it online and the staff were very nice. No interpreter were used as I didn't ask for one knowing I could cope.