Friday, February 26, 2010

Mother Battling for Deaf Daughter's Safety

Mother Battling for Deaf Daughter's Safety

One look at Maggie Wittland and her little girl Hannah show the two play and laugh together like a lot of moms and daughters.

But mom says it hasn't always been easy. When she and her husband found out Hannah was partially deaf and suffering from significant hearing loss, Maggie says it came as a shock.

"I have to admit that when we found out, it was probably our darkest day," she says.

But since the realization, the couple says they've grown even closer to their youngest daughter. They say they've tried to make her life as normal as possible, while also realizing Hannah's limited hearing means they have to be extra cautious. It's one reason Maggie wants to see a Deaf Child sign placed on her Council Bluffs street.

"All I'm asking for is a sign to have drivers be aware that there is a child with limited hearing," she says.

But Council Bluffs hasn't traditionally allowed such signs.

"Historically, we have not done those," says Greg Reeder, the city's director of public works.

Reeder says the city usually follows the State of Iowa's Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Device guidelines. The manual does caution against overusing warning signs, saying they can do more harm than good as drivers become immune.

"We have sign overload. Folks tune then out over time," says Reeder.

He also says such signs can provide families with deaf children a false sense of security.

But Maggie says she realizes Hannah's safety is her responsibility. She claims to have gotten the run around from city officials when she recently approached them about putting up a sign, which says she'll pay for out of pocket.

"The thing that is so frustrating is I'm getting all of these reasons why. No one can say it's because of this," says Maggie.

She says some Iowa towns and certainly plenty in Nebraska do allow such signs.

"Des Moines does. Omaha does. All of the surrounding communities," says Maggie.

The MUTCD guidelines Council Bluffs follows does have a section outlining how some local governments have developed guidelines for erecting Deaf Children signs.

Maggie says she'll keep fighting.

"I can fight this fight all day long. I will fight this until I've exhausted every resource."

It looks like Maggie's plea for her daughter hasn't entirely fallen on deaf ears. Council Bluffs Public Works tells FOX 42 they've started discussions on how to best set up firm, city guidelines when it comes to such requests.

It could mean a sign for little Hannah isn't far away, which is just the sort of news her caring mother wants to hear.

"I wouldn't change her for the world," she says.