Soon after learning to drive as a 17-year-old, I realised its value to my social life. After-school phone chats to friends weren’t an option, so the family car would be borrowed for evening visits. Near-misses while negotiating friends’ dark driveways were carefully logged in my experience as episodes not to repeat. Parking outside new social venues in Dublin was also an education in itself.
About a year previously, a poster had appeared in the window of the local driving school, “Deaf Drivers Welcome”. Eight initial lessons were taught by the head of the school, who used basic hand signals for “stop”, “start”, “left”, “right”, “change gear”, “slow down” and “speed up”. From then, my mother took over as teacher, bravely facing her fear of my tendency to drive just a bit too fast.
One spectacular hand-brake stop of hers will forever be remembered in my driving annals. Several months later, preparations began for the dreaded driving test. During practice on local test routes with the driving instructor, he let slip his uncertainty about my passing the first time. In fact, everyone’s expectations for my test were low, especially as first-test failures were all too common.
Sitting in the car with the tester on the day itself, I focused on understanding his instructions. He was relatively easy to lip-read, but under test conditions, double-checking everything was best. Everything went smoothly, including the 3-point turn and reversing around a corner. An eternity later at the test centre, he turned to me and said clearly, “You have passed your driving test!”
Note: Under Irish law, deaf or hard of hearing driving test candidates are allowed an interpreter for the first part of the test. This person cannot be their driving instructor, and must not accompany the candidate for the test of their driving skills. Otherwise, the tester may use basic sign language, or show and display written instructions in the first part of the test, as agreed with the candidate.