Monday, August 17, 2009

New drive to help the deaf

Source Link - New drive to help the deaf

DRIVING instructor Mike Woods had an unusual challenge on his hands when his two children signed up for lessons.

Debbie, 21, and Michael, 19, are both deaf – and very determined to drive. Enter Kathy Higgins, one of the region's specialist trainers skilled in tutoring driving instructors on how to teach deaf people to drive.

Kathy, who runs the Garston-based Insight2Drive School, said: "There is nothing in the rules saying deaf people cannot go to ordinary instructors, but deafness does present a number of problems and issues when learner drivers are being taught and tested.

"It can be more challenging because people with hearing difficulties have to take more in. If a pupil is profoundly deaf, you cannot shout 'stop!' so you have to use other mechanisms to teach them how to react in emergency situations.

"Instructors generally talk towards the windscreen because they are looking at the road ahead, but pupils who are deaf need to see mouth movements, and even the way you talk makes a difference. We teach instructors how to project and carry their voices.

"These are just some of the techniques, but they all make a difference, and it helps a rapport develop between instructor and pupil.

“Deaf people, trained properly, have just as good a chance of passing as everybody else."

Kathy, who passed her test at her third attempt 23 years ago, added: "I have been a driving instructor for a long time, but realised there were gaps in the offer available for people with hearing difficulties, so I undertook a lengthy government-approved course to train instructors how to teach learners with deafness or hearing problems.

"It does make a difference for pupils to be taught by an instructor specially trained to meet their specific needs."

Mike, who lives in Clubmoor, Liverpool, said: "Undergoing training from Kathy has made a difference in the way I approached teaching my children.

"I could have struggled through," said Mike, "but decided on getting the extra training I needed and it has taken away all of the difficulties and challenges. Both are now ready to take their tests. And I have an extra skill at my disposal as an instructor."