As someone who is hard of hearing, Gabriel Gomez says communicating with first responders is a challenge.
Gomez said it was difficult to have a conversation with a police officer during a traffic stop he had.
“I did try to gesture to him and explain to him a little bit that I was deaf, and it was a little bit difficult to do that communication,” Gomez recalled. “We tried a little bit with writing back and forth.”
As the director of McAllen ISD’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf, Liza Lara helped draft House Bill 3132, which assists the deaf and hard of hearing during situations similar to the one Gomez faced.
“We want to make sure police officers and first responders are aware if a person is deaf or hard of hearing,” Lara said. “That was a great opportunity for me to educate our lawmakers and I explained to them the importance of always having interpreters on standby.”
The new law provides the public the option of indicating on their driver’s license if they are deaf or hard of hearing.
“A deaf person shouldn’t have to struggle to be able to express their needs,” Lara said.
The new law will take effect on Sept. 1. Gomez says he’s looking forward to making the change.
“I am happy it is a safer opportunity for people out in the community, not just for myself, but for all of us,” Gomez said.