Thursday, 21 May 2015

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! 

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