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Historic Victory for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Truck Drivers


Exemptions Made for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Drivers DOT Recognizes Deaf and Hard of Hearing Truck Drivers!

It’s being called a historic victory for deaf and hard of hearing trucker drivers.  Today, the Department of Transportation and National Association of the Deaf announced that after years of prohibition, a group of deaf or hard of hearing drivers are now legally eligible to operate commercial vehicles. The announcement by the DOT acknowledges that deaf or hard of hearing drivers are as safe as hearing drivers.

[pullquote align=”right”] Today’s announcement not only allows the 40 applicants represented by the NAD to drive commercially, but opens the door to driving careers to any deaf driver with a safe driving record. The DOT explicitly states that this announcement pre-empts any contradictory state law.”[/pullquote]

The DOT granted 40 applications filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).  The applicants were requesting exemption from the current medical certification regulation that states:

“A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person —

First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at not less than 5 feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or, if tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the audiometric device is calibrated to American National Standard (formerly ASA Standard) Z24.5–1951.”

  • The required tests screen for hearing loss in the range of normal conversational tones.
  • Two tests are used to screen hearing: a forced whisper test AND/OR an audiometric test.
    • Either test may be administered first.
    • Test both ears.
    • Administration of the second test may be omitted when the test results of the initial test meet the hearing requirement for that test.
  • Hearing requirements are:
    • First perceive a forced whispered voice, in one ear, at not less than five feet.


    • Have an average hearing loss, in one ear, less than or equal to 40 decibels (dB).
  • When a hearing aid is used to meet the hearing qualification requirement, the hearing aid must be used while driving.
  • Disqualify when both the forced whisper test AND the audiometric test are failed.

For decades, safe and qualified drivers have either lost or been denied  CDLs because of their inability to pass the hearing portion of the DOT medical exam.   “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,” NAD said in a press release.

“In July 2011, the NAD filed exemption applications asking DOT to waive the hearing standard and allow deaf truckers with safe driving records to operate commercial motor vehicles. In February 2012, the NAD submitted a second group of applications for exemption. The DOT reviewed the driving records of each exemption applicant and asked for public comment on the exemption requests. In response, 570 individuals and organizations filed public comment, overwhelmingly agreeing that deaf people should be allowed  to  obtain  commercial  drivers’  licenses. The NAD expresses gratitude to these individuals and organizations that filed comments supporting the exemption petition,” the statement continued.

“We  made  history  today, and this is a huge victory for all deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States. Previously we had to fight to be able to  drive  cars,  and  now  commercial  driver’s  licenses  are   available to deaf and hard of hearing drivers!”  says  NAD President Christopher Wagner. Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, adds that “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. The NAD is thrilled that these safe and skilled deaf and hard of hearing drivers can now pursue  the  career  of  their  choice.”

NAD has filed a petition to have the hearing standard removed from the medical exam.  The petition is currently being reviewed by the DOT.

For more information, contact Howard A. Rosenblum at the National Association of the Deaf via email at [email protected] or telephone at 301- 587-1788, or Mary Vargas at Stein & Vargas, LLP by email at [email protected] or telephone at (240)793-3185.




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