In a historic victory, deaf and hard of hearing truckers in the United States will now be able to operate commercial motor vehicles such as large trucks. The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has granted 40 applications filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seeking exemption from the hearing standard that has barred deaf drivers from obtaining commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs). In announcing this historic decision, the DOT cited research demonstrating that deaf drivers are as safe as hearing drivers.
The DOT regulates the physical qualifications standards, or physical requirements, for people who want to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. For decades, the DOT has maintained a hearing standard that has excluded safe and skilled deaf drivers from a career in commercial trucking. The DOT hearing standard, contained in 49 C.F.R. §391.41(b)(11), requires that a CDL applicant be able to hear a forced whisper in the better ear at not less than five feet, or that an applicant does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 1,00 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid. The NAD has long argued that this standard has no relevance to safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and has insisted that the DOT rescind this standard.
“We made history today,” said Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of NAD. “The hearing standard is the kind of institutionalized discrimination based on stereotyped assumptions, rather than on data or facts that the NAD has fought to change for many years We are thrilled that these safe and skilled deaf and hard of hearing drivers can now pursue the career of their choice.”
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