Service helps deaf and hearing-impaired drivers

January 5, 2012 9:34:38 PM PST
The Illinois Secretary of State's office has been helping deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers alert law enforcement officers about their disabilities for 13 years.

However, more awareness about the service is needed.

A simple J88 notation on a driver's license can make a big difference for deaf and hard-of-hearing drivers. It is easy to get and available all across the state of Illinois.

"J88 is one of those programs where this is why we we're trying to do this story with the media today, is to get the word out to the public and to the community that this program does exist for people who are deaf or hard of hearing or speech-impaired to have this notation added to their driver's license, which will allow first responders to know in advance when conducting a traffic stop or responding to an emergency that the driver of the vehicle uses alternative means of communication," said Bill Bogdan, the Illinois Secretary of State's disability liaison.

The challenge with the J88 program is that the drivers have to ask for it.

"Back when this program was created, that was one of the suggestions that actually came from the committee that created the J88 program," Bogdan said. "They wanted the individual that were deaf or hard of hearing or speech-impaired to actually ask for the program, not our office asking every driver if they would like it."

Secretary of State Jesse White says law enforcement officers should know what J88 means.

"They are trained to read and know and understand that when they see the license plates that they know that individual is deaf or hard of hearing," said White.

Kate Kubey has had J88 on her driver's license for years.

"When they first came out with the license plates saying 'H-I,'" Kubey said she found the plates to be "too identifying, people would know that people are hearing impaired, and I didn't like it, so... for years I've been working on it, and they came up with J88, and I signed up right away."

Since learning about J88, I had it put on my driver license. The process is simple and will make a difference if I am ever stopped by a police officer.

"We do feel that the program is a very vital program for the people that definitely need it, and it's something that can obviously be a life-changing type of response because you have it on there," said Bogdan.

Illinois is the first state to offer this program. Missouri followed suit with a similar program.

For more information to how you can get J88 on your driver's license, visit