Readers Respond to Pearl Pearson’s Police Assault Story

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Two weeks ago, Lipreading Mom reported on the case of Pearl Pearson, a 64-year-old man who was assaulted by a highway officer because he couldn’t hear the officer’s commands due to his deafness. In the post, I also shared my experiences with being unable to hear an officer when I was pulled over. You may read the story by clicking HERE.

A barrage of reader comments came through regarding the post. Today Lipreading Mom highlights two of these comments.

Hear Fayette on the Pearl Pearson Story

Cathy Zimmerman, with an organization called Hear Fayette, commented that Pearson’s story emphasizes the need for advocacy between the hearing loss and deaf communities and local first responders.

“Our friend was arrested after his truck hit a pole,” Zimmerman writes. “He was unable to phone or speak when people offered to help, so 911 was called. Although he was not abused, he was cuffed (lost his voice), taken to jail—all without benefit of an interpreter. He inspired us with his emotion and story.

“Because of him,” she continues, “we designed our own card at Hear Fayette, St. Vincent de Paul in Uniontown PA. First, we spoke to Pennsylvania state troopers and local police and paramedics and one firefighter. Then we worked, studied, and designed. Our card is shown on our Facebook page Hear Fayette Program. 

“We keep in touch with our local police departments and local barracks of state police, sharing videos about drivers who are deaf or hard of hearing. We promote our hard plastic-covered visor cards–almost 1000 out there so far. Educate yourself and the first responders in your area. We are all in this together!”

To view Hear Fayette’s videos (ASL and captioned versions) about the card and other important things to keep in mind during an emergency situation, click below:

Hear Fayette Videos

Author Katherine Bouton Responds to Pearson’s and Lipreading Mom’s Police Experiences

Author of the bestselling book, Shouting Won’t Help, Katherine Bouton has become an advocate for people who are late-in-life deafened as she was.

“I agree the Pearl Pearson case is egregious and thank you for publicizing it,” Bouton writes. “But I also wonder if it’s safe to be driving when you can’t hear an emergency vehicle behind you. I have severe hearing loss but I have trained myself to keep my eyes on the rear and side view mirrors.”

Bouton goes on to comment about Lipreading Mom’s personal experience with not being able to hear a highway patrolman, as reported in the Pearl Pearson story.

“I like your blog, Lipreading Mom, but all of us with hearing loss need to train ourselves to be more aware of what’s on the road,” she writes. “Being trailed by a police car with its siren on for two miles and not noticing it isn’t safe. Especially with kids in the car.”

Lipreading Mom’s Reply to Bouton

“That is a valid response. Let me clarify what happened when I was pulled over. It was 1993, I was 19 years old, I had no children then, and I did not have a hearing loss diagnosis. An audiologist misdiagnosed me as a child with having normal hearing even though I struggled to hear in class; no second opinions were sought by my parents since they trusted this audiologist’s opinion.

“While driving, I had the radio turned on too loud since I had trouble hearing. The sun was rising in the east, and I was driving toward the sunrise, so the sun glare was in my eyes and I had to focus to keep my eyes on the road ahead. When I first noticed the patrol car behind me, I thought it was responding to another emergency, so I slowed down and attempted to move out of his way. When he continued to tail me, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! He’s chasing after ME.’ Then I pulled the car to the shoulder and stopped, turning my radio and car off. The highway patrolman yelled at me to ‘Get out of the car…now!’ I did hear that, and I immediately stepped out of my car. He told me to come to his squad car and sit in the front seat. While I sat in his squad car, he told me that his car had followed mine for two miles. I told him I had no idea, and I didn’t. Then he wrote me an $80 ticket for going more than 10 miles over the turnpike’s speed limit. I had been in a hurry to get to Stillwater, Oklahoma, from Chickasha, Oklahoma, which are two hours apart, in order to see my younger sister compete in her high school state finals drama tournament. I slept through my alarm that morning. So my mistakes were: 1) I should never have been speeding and 2) I should have questioned my parents and the audiologist when they told me I did not have a hearing loss. But I didn’t because I was a child and I trusted my parents. Sigh…

“Since that incident, I have learned to be more visually aware of my surroundings while driving, and I watch my speed level. Eight years later, at the age of 27, I returned to a different audiologist to have my hearing tested since I developed tinnitus (ringing of the ears) upon giving birth to my first child. That’s when I was officially diagnosed with progressive hearing loss. And since the diagnosis, I always let officers know that I have hearing loss. Fortunately, I rarely get pulled over since I watch my speed.”

In response to what happened to Pearl Pearson and to alert first responders about hearing loss, Lipreading Mom now carries this card on her car visor.

Lipreading Mom's Car Visor Card

Lipreading Mom’s Car Visor Card

Do you think Pearl Pearson’s story has received adequate media attention? Share your thoughts below.

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7 thoughts on “Readers Respond to Pearl Pearson’s Police Assault Story

  1. As a sign language interpreter, I think a LOT about situations such as Pearl Pearson’s (I live in Oklahoma, too, so it hits close to home for me). I attend church in a town known to be a speed trap, with progressive speed limits heading out of town. One evening, I hit 45 about on-tenth of a mile too soon, and got stopped. It occurred to me I should turn on my dome light so the officer could see my hands. He was kind (whew!). Later, I thought, maybe this action would help protect people with hearing loss when they are stopped by police — turn on your dome light, so the officer won’t have to shine a light in your eyes. What do you think?

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