Belonging

Warning: Possibly Occupied Residence

Drivers need to behave at all times as if they fully understand the difference between themselves and pedestrians, and that someone on foot is at a distinct disadvantage in any encounter with a car.

By Michelle Martin
Published May 23, 2010

Our youngest daughter is hearing impaired. She has learned to listen and speak with the aid of a cochlear implant, and is able to keep up with grade-level work in school. A few extra things besides the implant are in place in order to ensure her success.

Her teacher speaks into a microphone that is on the same FM frequency as a receiver which plugs into the speech processor attached to her implant.  She is seated towards the front of the class, but behind and beside peers who are good students, in order to be able to follow their actions (like turning to the correct page in the textbook) at those times when she doesn't hear the teacher correctly.

When she's not wearing her speech processor, she still does pretty well with the residual hearing in her other ear, as well as by lip reading and making use of context to understand what is being said to her, especially by people whose tones and cadences are familiar.

Among her biggest challenges is discerning what she needs to hear when there is ambient noise. In her grade one classroom this is lessened a little with the use of the FM system, and by the installation of hush-ups on the legs of every chair.

In gym class, though, it is more difficult for her to follow directions-they haven't yet invented hush-ups for squeaky sneakers, and all voices including her own reverberate between the hard floor, the concrete block walls and the high ceiling.

On the softball field, she manages by paying extremely close attention to visual cues, even though she is able to wear her speech processor while playing.  Outdoors there are a lot of competing noises- wind, birds, barking dogs, airplanes, leaf blowers, and traffic. 

Traffic Signs

Which brings me to traffic signs. Specifically, to those DEAF CHILD traffic signs the city of Hamilton will install outside a house if requested.  I've seen them in a couple of places, and when Sophie was younger I wasn't sure how I felt about them.

I mean, if a driver is proceeding and sees a young child who is not hearing impaired and who is on the sidewalk playing with a ball, is he or she supposed to just honk to be heard and keep proceeding as usual, at ten kilometres an hour above the speed limit? And would this behaviour actually prevent a tragedy?

Or is said driver supposed to drive the way any defensive driving course would recommend: slow right down, proceed past the child cautiously, and be prepared to brake if necessary?

Are those DEAF CHILD signs telling drivers that this is the only time and place when they really need to behave as if someone might not be aware of their approach? Would they even notice the sign in time to slow down adequately or stop?

DEAF CHILD sign
DEAF CHILD sign (source: Wikimedia Commons)

What if they saw a senior citizen? How are they supposed to behave then? Do they need a warning that says: POSSIBLE EARLY ONSET ALZHIEMERS: TEST RESULTS PENDING, or STUBBORN GREAT AUNT WHO REFUSES TO WEAR NEW HEARING AIDS?

There are all kinds of people who might not be paying close attention to a moving vehicle or who may behave unpredictably while walking.

Perhaps the city should make signs available that say IPOD WEARING TEENAGER, HABITUALLY DISTRACTED MID-LEVEL EXECUTIVE, HUNGOVER PERSON and GIGGLY GIRL.

What about HEARTBROKEN EX-BOYFRIEND, RECENTLY LAID-OFF EMPLOYEE or ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR?

Hell, given the behaviour of some motorists, maybe every house in the city needs some kind of yellow warning. You know, something basic. Something like: POSSIBLY OCCUPIED RESIDENCE.

Drive As If Every Child is a Deaf Child

We've chosen not to ask the city for a sign. As our daughter gets older and can play with a decreasing amount of supervision, her self-consciousness about being different from her peers increases. It's been difficult enough for her to realize that the speech processor is not something she will grow out of. A big yellow sign (of dubious use) in reference to that fact, posted at the end of the driveway, just rubs it in.

We've decided instead to teach her to be extra careful, and to insist that her brothers and sisters continue to look out for her like they have been. I know that opinions on these signs among parents of hearing impaired children are divided, and that we are not alone in our approach.

Either a motorist is careful and attentive to pedestrian behaviour, or a motorist is not. If he or she is not careful, then a sign (should it even be noticed) is not going to help.

In fact, the city of Jacksonville, Florida does not install them:

A deaf child or blind child sign does not describe to the motorist where the child might be. Most streets within a residential neighborhood have children who react in the same way, and each driver must be aware of all children within a residential neighborhood.

Drivers need to behave at all times as if they fully understand the difference between themselves and pedestrians, and that someone on foot is at a distinct disadvantage in any encounter with a car. Maybe they simply need to drive on city streets as if everyone walking is a deaf child, or as if a deaf child is playing nearby.

It would be a start.

Michelle Martin lives in Hamilton where she and her husband are watching their 10 children fly the nest, one by one. She has been published in both the Hamilton Spectator and Raise the Hammer, as well as in the online edition of the National Post and, more recently, in the Canadian Urban Transit Association's Urban Mobility Forum. Michelle is coordinator of the Community Access to Transportation program. She was formerly on the writing/copy editing team of the original Crown Point hub paper, The Point. However, the opinions she expresses in Raise the Hammer are her own. She sometimes tweets @deltawestmom

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By John Neary (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 08:52:56

Great piece, Michelle. I have always thought that "deaf child" signs were more about optics than safety. It's very hard for people to drive cautiously on the odd occasion that they pass a "deaf child" sign if they drive like maniacs the other 99% of the time.

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By zippo (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 11:41:59

Agreed, We could start a "False sense of security" file included in which could be "deaf child" signs, those "Baby on board" signs that you still sometimes see in the rear windows of cars, Styrofoam hats Um, sorry, "bicycle helmets", etc.

"Drivers need to behave at all times as if they fully understand the difference between themselves and pedestrians, and that someone on foot is at a distinct disadvantage in any encounter with a car. Maybe they simply need to drive on city streets as if everyone walking is a deaf child, or as if a deaf child is playing nearby."

Of course this is undeniable in theory, but we have a hundred years of history with the car which shows that some drivers will do otherwise most of the time, and many drivers will do otherwise at least some of the time.

As a culture we have normalized the resulting carnage as "tragic but inevitable". Morally indefensible in my opinion, but there you go.

Here's hoping that the post peak oil reality to car culture will be less bloody

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 12:16:54

As a child, I watched the devastation that can happen to a family, when a family member is killed by a vehicle. No mother or father shoould ever have to experience that. Even though I was only eight years old and many years have gone by, it is still a strong memory in my mind.

Watched an interesting clip last night, that was aired on CBC at some point. The speaker talked about the world that is coming due to peak oil, the rising prices, how many will not even afford to be able to go to work, the fact that we depend on cheap food coming in from all over the world based on cheap oil cost, we have covered up lots of good farm land, thus this will limit our ability to grow food for our own members of or community if calamity should strike

The speaker also fouced on the very real and possible social up heavals that could come, as people will not have the means for the basics, food and shelter.

Pretty scary world coming, I fear for the children, the grand children and beyond.

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By Snowy (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 19:48:30

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2011-10-13 17:22:03

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By Jarod (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 20:34:11

Ryan, is there any way you can delete the above comment? Please.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 21:07:33

By snowy: who says you are normal.

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By d.knox (registered) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 22:06:38

I've wondered about good of the various caution signs myself, but I confess I just took the lazy way out and assumed they were a good thing.

I am not quite sure that the signs don't do any good, though. Ever since I learned that white cats are almost always deaf, I slow down when I see a white cat. I think we assume things about people - like they can hear the traffic. Not always a good assumption, but at least with the white cats, I know they can't, so I take a little extra care.

Doesn't quite equate with children, I know, Michelle, but I hope the analogy still works.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted May 24, 2010 at 22:11:08

"Ryan, is there any way you can delete the above comment? Please."

I second this motion.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2010 at 07:33:07

Thought provoking piece. One of the thoughts it provokes from me - aside from "I agree that the signs should not be necessary" and "heh :)" - is that the sign has always had the faint whiff of the freak show to it. I half expect to see a sad little girl in a yellow dress, head down, all alone, standing under the sign. "Look, Ma! A deaf child! A real-life deaf child!"

That said, I, too, drive more cautiously when I see a white cat. And I pedal more cautiously when I see white headphones. And I suppose I take extra care when I see those signs - though I most often see those signs out on busy roads or in the country when there aren't all that many children playing on the sidewalk anyhow.

So my final provoked thought is ... "I dunno."

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-05-25 06:38:18

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 25, 2010 at 09:28:41

Snowy's being an ass, but I for one vote ('cause this is a democracy, right? :) that we not go down the road of deleting comments yet ... not until things get deeply dire and flame wars subsume threads in flows of molten invective. Though maybe if comments could get voted down to #fafafa with a score of -10 or less :)

Comment edited by moylek on 2010-05-25 08:30:24

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 26, 2010 at 11:40:49

Snowy's being an ass, but I for one vote ('cause this is a democracy, right? :) that we not go down the road of deleting comments yet ... Ken

I don't mind if the "Central Scrutinizer" takes down a post implying someone was homosexually molested when they were 6.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2010 at 15:40:42

I don't mind if the "Central Scrutinizer" takes down a post implying someone was homosexually molested when they were 6.

If someone similarly insulted a guest in my home, he or she would be shown the door.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 26, 2010 at 16:07:08

Well, tried to add to my comment but it wouldn't let me, even though I was supposed to be within the editing window. To continue:

If someone similarly insulted a guest in my home, he or she would be shown the door.

It could be argued that downvoting achieves the same thing, but maybe it just leaves the insulter out on the sidewalk in front of the house instead of getting rid of him or her entirely. To continue the analogy, at what point do you call the cops and have them removed, rather than simply let the person continue to make a fool of him or herself publicy?

Comment edited by Michelle Martin on 2010-05-26 15:08:06

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 26, 2010 at 16:20:38

I guess I would counter that by saying that RTH isn't anyone's private residence, but rather an agora. Since that is the case, the appropriate response to behaviour that offends normal human sensibilities is shunning. I think downvoting accomplishes that.

I don't think it's fair to Ryan to make him the final arbiter of who gets shown the door.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted May 26, 2010 at 16:24:32

Holy Crap! I just noticed Snowy's comment is at -18! That's gotta be a record. If that isn't sufficient censure I don't know what is. Let the comment stand. It's a testament to how this community feels about that type of invective.

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By Michelle Martin (registered) - website | Posted May 27, 2010 at 17:24:17

I guess I would counter that by saying that RTH isn't anyone's private residence, but rather an agora.

Point taken, Highwater. I'll see your Greek reference and raise you another. Came across this today somewhere else, and went to the source- it's from the graduation speech Neil Postman never gave:

To be an Athenian is to understand that the thread which holds civilized society together is thin and vulnerable; therefore, Athenians place great value on tradition, social restraint, and continuity. To an Athenian, bad manners are acts of violence against the social order. The modern Visigoth cares very little about any of this. The Visigoths think of themselves as the center of the universe. Tradition exists for their own convenience, good manners are an affectation and a burden, and history is merely what is in yesterday's newspaper.

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By moylek (registered) - website | Posted May 28, 2010 at 07:49:53

Well said and sensible, Ryan.

On other boards, moderators reserve the right to simply close a thread to further commenting if things boil over into a pointless flame war. Have you got a button for that? And would you use it?

Mind, RTH is one of the more successful and flame-free boards I've participated in - a credit to to the design and the quiet editorial guidance (I know that I'm supposed to say "and most of all to the fine, thoughtful, upstanding, clean-limbed, bright eyed participants" but I'm pretty sure that in another environment we could get ourselves a pretty good flame war going without too much effort).

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 08:50:52

So the comment above is harmful, but my concern is that the precedent set by deleting it could ultimately prove to be more harmful still. - Ryan

Could the post simply "fade away" once say a -20 was reached? That would be democratic wouldn't it?

I have no problem keeping it up either, it stands as a testament to the poster's stupidity and ignorance. It always helps to know who those people are.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:11:33

On other boards, moderators reserve the right to simply close a thread to further commenting if things boil over into a pointless flame war. - Kenneth

I'm not a big fan of that approach either.

There was a debate starting about the legitimacy of the FCP on the Hamiltonian and sure enough the thread was locked... which was BS in my opinion. Flame fests happen all the time on that site and nothing happens, but start raising questions about the FCP and "bingo" the thread is locked, with the FCP supporters getting the last word.

It has made me question that websites' motives. So you do need to be careful with what is deemed appropriate or not.

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:38:10

^What's the FCP?

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 09:44:44

Well said Ryan and I completely agree, any decisions regarding the removal of posts that are clearly not spam or illegal, should be dealt with by the community not by a mod. Personally, I think the system is fine the way it is, a score of -25 (as of the time of this post) is a pretty obvious indicator of what RTH users think of posts like Snowy's. Though best practice is, in the words of zookeeper, to downvote and move along. Engaging a troll only legitimizes what they post.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 10:25:08

FCP: Family Coalition party, maybe

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 11:59:30

Thanks grassroots, I guess Kiely means this thread: http://www.thehamiltonian.net/2009/04/pe...

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By z jones (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:26:50

@Ryan In these days of power mad politicians it's not every day you find a community leader who wants to push power away from him, kudos for that! The comment stinks and I'm sorry it was targeted at grassroots but I guess there's no need to wonder what people think of it. We all know there are ass clowns on teh intertubes, better to just ignore them than making them into martyrs for free speech.

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 12:46:48

FCP: Family Coalition party, maybe - Grassroots

Yep, sorry for the confusion.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted May 28, 2010 at 13:27:56

No brainer: no problem.

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