ON HAND: “Impaired Child Area”

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

I did a double take as I drove in my jeep in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Was I really seeing what I had just seen? I carefully looked again. Yup. I hadn’t misread the yellow diamond sign that proclaimed: IMPAIRED CHILD AREA.

I chuckled and kept driving. What kind of impairment? Mental? Physical? Alcohol? Were drivers to slow down if they saw someone with any sign of impairment? Shouldn’t drivers slow down for any person, period?

njsignThis made me think about when I lived in southern New Jersey. I was on a shuttle back from the airport, and we stopped at a hotel to let a passenger off. I noticed a sign in front that stunned me: DEAF EMPLOYEES ON PREMISES.

I decided this would be perfect for a story, so I called the hotel, Summerfield Suites, and spoke with someone named Jen. When asked why the sign was mounted, Jen said, “It’s to let people know that some people who work here can’t hear… I guess because we have a parking lot surrounding our building to let them know we have deaf people working here, to be careful.” As I hung up, I thought that if these people got jobs, they probably could be taught to look both ways before crossing the street, or in this matter, a parking lot. (For more on this, check the July 2001 issue of Silent News, page 11.)

I also often drove by a sign near my parents’ old house in Naperville, Illinois, that said: HEARING IMPAIRED CHILD AREA. One can only wonder how they managed to fit all of the letters on the sign. I always pictured the sign being lobbied for by an overprotective parent who believed deaf kids were helpless. Or maybe not. My boyfriend’s (deaf) parents have a cabin in Northern Wisconsin, and 20 years ago, a DEAF CHILD AREA sign was suddenly put up much to their surprise. After a while, the parents finally found out who had put it up–it was a hearing neighbor, who wanted to keep cars from speeding down that isolated road.

This is an age-old controversy. Do these signs really serve their purpose? I say they don’t. I’ve often discussed both sides of the issue with parents, deaf people, and anyone remotely interested in the topic. Most drivers don’t slow down, anyway–in fact, there was a show on television once where drivers were tested at random about the most recent sign they had just passed. More than 75% of them didn’t remember what the sign said.

Besides, these signs are easy advertisements for child molesters and kidnappers searching for prey. Why would anyone publicize that deaf children might be wandering around in the middle of the street? It’s just ridiculous to me. Can’t we find better ways to spend money?

Maybe I’ll mount a sign on the country road in front of my house: DEAF PEOPLE (AND DOG) AHEAD.

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

Related posts:

Comments Closed