Deaf People Behind the Wheel of a Truck


English translation: Ixone Sáenz Paraíso

Many people believe that Deaf people cannot drive. Nothing could be more untrue. Some Deaf people have reached to the top of the sporting competition, such as Ashley Fiolek, the youngest woman in history to win the American National Motocross Championship, or Chris Kennedy and Greg Gunderson, two veteran Deaf sprint car racers who have won numerous competitions.

Do Deaf People Drive Well?

But how good are deaf people generally at driving? The only known report is the one carried out by ECRI Institute in the United States, a non-profit organisation that studies approaches to improve patient care. It was founded in 1968 and in 1987 was designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a collaborating centre as recognition of ECRI's successes in advancing safety and cost of patient care. This report was submitted in 2008 to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, US Department of Transportation agency that deals with the prevention of accidents in heavy vehicles and coaches.

Well, this report confirms that previous studies did not find any evidence to show that people with hearing loss have a higher risk of accident and do not find a higher incidence of accidents than in hearing people.

It is very likely that Deaf people compensate the sense of hearing with the sense of sight. Several investigations indicate that they have a shorter response time in peripheral vision. And driving is primarily a visual activity.

Deaf People Driving Trucks

The free movement of persons is a right recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and driving your own vehicle can make an important difference in the quality of life and equal opportunities. A very clear example can be found in Saudi Arabia, in 2016 it was decided to end the unique prohibition of the world for women to drive and permit them to drive.

There are also many countries that do not permit Deaf people to drive, whilst in other countries, they are allowed to drive trucks and heavy vehicles.

Mapa mundial de países con colores en los que se permite conducir y los que no a las personas sordas
Countries marked in blue enable Deaf people to drive. Those marked in red do not allow it. In grey, there is no information about them (source: Wikipedia)

A video by a Deaf French professional heavy-duty driver, Vasile Gheorghe, went viral. In his video, which has reached more than 700k views, he encourages Deaf people from other countries to fight for the right to get a licence for heavy goods vehicle to work in this area and shows his huge two-container truck (video in International signs).

This other Deaf person from Lithuania shows details of his work on the truck and even assembles and disassembles the truck containers himself (video in Lithuanian Sign Language):


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