Minely, a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout, tells us about her determination to protect deaf drivers.
Think about this: if you’re deaf, you either have trouble hearing or aren’t able to hear anything at all. That includes police sirens or directions police officers verbally give people on the street. Meanwhile, police are often trained to think if people don’t slow or stop for police sirens or if they don’t follow what a police officer says to do, they’re evading the law. And because many people in law enforcement don’t understand sign language, deaf people might be asking for help but not getting the attention or support they need. It’s a problem that’s lead to a lot of misunderstandings.
We needed a system where people could clearly and easily identify themselves as deaf and a way to help police communicate with the deaf community. It could be a really simple fix to solve a lot of problems, and I was kind of surprised no one had done anything about it yet.
So I dedicated my Girl Scout Gold Award to changing a law here in Puerto Rico so that people have the opportunity to register themselves as deaf through their driver’s licenses, and on giving law enforcement officers the tools they need to communicate with and provide help to the deaf community.
I thought it wouldn’t be so hard to meet my goal and convince people that we needed to take these steps—to me, all of this was the obvious thing to do—but along the way, I heard “no” from people who I thought would be totally onboard and had to put in a lot of time networking and explaining the issue. In the end, it was all worth it.
Now, if a deaf driver gets pulled over, they can just show the officer their driver’s license, and the officer will see the deaf symbol, avoiding a whole lot of misunderstandings. Plus, police have access to a virtual course I built on sign language basics. If a deaf person approaches them on the street, they can pull up the course on their phone to use as a translator of sorts to understand if the person is asking for help and make it easier for the two to communicate.
Obviously, it feels amazing to be a Gold Award Girl Scout, but what feels more amazing is knowing what I’m capable of. Now I have proof that if my heart is in the right place and I reach out with determination, I can do anything.