Karen Jackson isn’t trying to drive her neighbours crazy.
When she put a “Slow down – kids at play” sign outside her home, she was simply trying to make her street safer for her kids, a girl aged 10 and a three-year-old boy named Cory who has a hearing impairment.
She thought it would help slow motorists down. It didn’t.
Frustrated, she added the word, “Deaf”, to the sign, hoping it would help. “But people still go by fast.”
So she started placing the sign on the street itself, hoping it would be easier for motorists to see.
Some – like the HandyDart that ran right into the sign, sending it sailing into her driveway, nearly hitting her daughter – don’t appear to notice it at all.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Jackson said. “They didn’t even slow down. Did you not hear that? I wondered.”
Others become actively hostile.
Jackson recalls how a woman actually got out of her car and threw the sign at their yard. Jackson, who, like her son, has a hearing impairment, was gardening at the time.
When the family moved to their home in the 6300-block of 167A Street five years ago, she says, “It was nice and quiet.”
Then her street got extended, turning it into a short-cut to 64 Avenue.
Now, some motorists race through her neighbourhood, a family-friendly place where her children have friends up and down the block.
They all seem to love playing outside.
Like any parent, she keeps watch while her kids play, but it can be impossible keeping up with every move of an active child.
Jackson fears for all the children on the street, but the safety of her son is a particular concern – she worries the little tyke might get hit by a car because he can’t hear traffic very well.
“My son can’t hear a car coming,” she says. “It know it’s my responsibility to watch him all the time. I do.” But sometimes he’ll dart out after a ball or toy without thinking of the consequences. “He doesn’t hear me yell and he just runs after it.”
With only a small improvement in the situation, Jackson feels she’s run out of options. She’s reluctant to petition the city to erect a street sign notifying of deaf children in the neighbourhood.
“One mom in White Rock fought for a sign like that for years and years and finally got one. But she found that it was worse – people would make fun of her. She just felt that it made her stand out more.”
And she says speed bumps are probably out. Several nurses in the neighbourhood have pointed out they slow down ambulances.
“I respect that,” she says.
Jackson’s not alone. Parents of hearing impaired children across B.C. share her concerns.
One of those parents, Bobbi Taylor, also lives in Cloverdale.
Taylor, who lives on 57 Avenue, is the mother of four young children under the age of six.
Like Jackson, Taylor has added the word, “Deaf”, to her sign. It reads: Slow – deaf kids at play.
Before she added the word, deaf, 10 per cent of drivers would slow down when they saw the sign. Now, 90 per cent do – a vast improvement, she admits, but not good enough.
“Neighbours still race past,” she says, adding she, too, started placing the sign out in the street out of frustration.
Not everyone appreciates the safety message, she says, and aren’t afraid to make their feelings known.
“They’re out and out rude, people,” she says.
Taylor’s four-and-half-year-old daughter Kristen has a hearing loss. Her cochlear implant can come loose when she wears a bike helmet, she says.
“The community needs to know that they are just kids and they need to be kids,” she says. “They’re dealing with adult issues. You need to give them those opportunities. But don’t take them away by not letting them play.”
The Taylors tried petitioning the city for a road sign soon after she was diagnosed. At the time, another boy with a hearing loss lived in the neighbourhood.
Taylor says the city responded by saying they were trying to limit the amount of signage because the Olympics were coming.
The Olympics are now over, but she hasn’t gone back to the city.
“Even if they do put up the sign, people are going to ignore it after a while because it becomes part of the landscape,” she reasons.
The children aren’t allowed to play outside when their dad’s weeding the garden – it’s just too risky unless 100 per cent of his attention is on the kids, she says.
Meantime, she’s resorted to putting two signs of her own out on the street – one on other side of her house.
“Why can’t people slow down just for the sake that children are playing?” she wonders.
“It’s really sad. There’s no kick the can or simple games like tag in your front yard, from yard to yard. You don’t let your kids run free like that – they might get hit by a car!”