#In-Depth: The Sound Barrier in getting a Driving Licence — a look at the Deaf community’s access to driving privileges

Vehicle sign for drivers with hearing loss — Telangana, India
Vehicle sign for drivers with hearing loss — Telangana, India

Role of hearing in the ability to drive

Sign Language Video

Experience of getting a DL

In August-September 2020, Ola Mobility Institute and V-shesh conducted an online survey to understand the experience of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community of getting a DL. 35 respondents from Bangalore, 23 from Mumbai and 18 from Delhi (76 total) completed the survey. The respondents included 18 women and 58 men who lived with hearing loss. 74% of the respondents were between 21 -40 years of age. The survey was supplemented with an online Focus Group Discussion (FGD) consisting of 2 women and 7 men from the survey respondents.

Conversion funnel representing the success rate of getting a DL for the Deaf community
Conversion funnel representing the success rate of getting a DL for the Deaf community

The lower success rate may be attributed to a few reasons including a potential bias against the Deaf community and various inaccessibilities (including communication barrier) throughout the process to get a DL.

However, a further comprehensive study will be required on this subject to arrive at a reliable conclusion.

How can technology help?

Sign Language Video
Clipped convex mirror on a car’s wing mirror
Clipped convex mirror on a car’s wing mirror

Recommendations and way forward:

Sign Language Video
  1. Conduct an audit of the DL application process to identify inaccessibilities and adapt it for the Deaf community. One easy intervention could be an online platform to connect with a sign language interpreter for facilitating interaction between a Deaf person and the RTO staff.
  2. Invest in capability building for enabling Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to learn to drive safely. This could include establishing dedicated driving schools such as UK’s ECOL Driving School or creating app-based or online content on driving lessons in sign language such as Aceable drivers ed.
  3. Encourage automobile manufacturers to adopt #UniversalDesign practices and integrate technologies such as the ones mentioned above in their vehicles.
  4. Tech solutions can increase the cost of automobiles. Therefore, the Government may allow waiver of GST on vehicles fitted with assistive tools and technologies to make them more affordable. This is in lines of the GST waiver available for vehicles purchased by persons living with locomotor disabilities. Alternatively, automobile companies may also be encouraged to provide a special discount on such vehicles. The Government could recognise such a discount as an eligible Corporate Social Responsibility spending mandated under the Companies Act, 2013.
  5. Run awareness campaigns to train and sensitise RTO officers and doctors to support members of the Deaf community who wish to get a DL. Similarly, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals and their families should be sensitized on the means to get a DL and drive safely.

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Ola Mobility Institute

Ola Mobility Institute

Ola’s in-house policy research and social innovation think-tank! Follow for latest mobility insights and conversations. For website, visit https://ola.institute