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Driving, Sexuality, Schooling, and Capitalization

Can deaf people drive?

Yes. Deaf people can drive. Just think of when you're in your car driving with the music on full blast, or with all the windows closed. That mutes out a lot of outside sounds but you still manage to drive just fine. The same goes for a deaf person. Deaf drivers are also in the habit of checking their mirrors more often for emergency vehicle lights. Deaf people are statistically safer drivers than hearing drivers because of their heightened visual awareness.

Do deaf, blind, and deafblind people have sex?

Deaf, blind, and deafblind are no different than the rest of the population. Deaf/blind people have the same range of sexuality and sex drive as the general population.

Why are the words "Deaf," "Blind," or "DeafBlind" sometimes capitalized?

"Deaf" with a capital D denotes a cultural identity surrounding a signed language and a set of cultural norms separate from the mainstream local culture. Deaf people who capitalize the D see their deafness as more than just a physiological state, also as an identity. The same applies for DeafBlind people, and for some Blind people, who, while sharing a language in common with the mainstream, may feel part of a smaller community.

Do deaf or blind people go to special schools for the deaf and blind?

Some do and some don't. Some deaf students thrive better in a school specifically targeted towards deaf/hard of hearing students. Some blind students also thrive better in a school for the blind, although nowadays it's more common for students with multiple disabilities including blindness to attend a school for the blind. Most students whose only disability is blindness go to a mainstream school.

How Come Deaf Can't Speak Well?

How come Deaf people sound weird or speak or type in broken English?

Deaf people who had hearing loss before or around learning to speak have had to rely on visual and tactile methods of learning speech and have had to go through speech therapy. While the vocal cords of deaf people are perfectly intact, it's much harder to speak correctly without a feedback system. It's much like when you hear someone singing to their iPod and they're singing totally out of key and sound crazy, even if they can sing well (or relatively well) when they hear themselves.

With deaf people who have never heard their own voice or the voice of others, it's much harder to self-monitor speech. It's also impossible for someone who is born deaf to know what some or all sounds sound like (depending on the extent of their hearing loss.) So for example, if someone has never heard an "s" sound, it's hard to emulate it.

Some deaf people speak in broken English cause English is not their first language. For deaf people who have grown up with American Sign Language, or whatever other local sign language, English is their second language. So much like a foreigner, they tend to apply the grammar of their own language to English. Just as a foreign speaker might create phrases like "I go to store" or "She do it at her own," someone whose first language is a signed language is speaking English as a foreign speaker as well.

Contrary to popular belief, American Sign Language (and other sign languages in English speaking countries like British Sign Language, Australian Sign Language, or New Zealand Sign Language) have their own rules for grammar and syntax. They have their own ways of forming sentences properly and ordering words and conjugating verbs and so on. They are not just visual representations of the spoken language. This is made evident by the fact that even though the U.S., the U.K. Australia, and New Zealand all have English as a spoken language, they have their own sign languages. So if a deaf person speaks in broken English, think of it as the same as a foreign speaker.

If you are thinking "but this person has grown up in an English-speaking country" or "but this person can read English," it's important to understand that even so, a pre-lingual deaf person hasn't had the same accidental exposure to spoken language as hearing people do growing up. So they have never overheard conversations and had the opportunity to correct their mistakes from exposure.

The only exposure a deaf person has to spoken language is intentional exposure, such as speech therapy or being in a school that advocates speech only. Not only that, but children are taught to read much later than they are taught to speak, so if a deaf person has not had access to signed language, their first access to language is much later than a hearing person's, which can affect the brain's ability to grasp language.

Even though deaf people and hard of hearing people have full access to written language, someone born deaf/hard of hearing doesn't have the same sound associations to letters on the page that someone with hearing does. So they might know the words in written form, but they aren't sounding them out in their heads when reading the way a hearing person is. As a result, even people with hearing loss who have exposure to written language often still miss out on details that are only audible.

If you listen closely, you'll notice the most common mistakes relate to minor changes in sounds (like word endings), such as saying "I wants" (where it's easy to see how a deaf person might miss out on the "s" at the end of "wants") or "I am heated it" (where it's easy to see how someone who hasn't had a lifetime of exposure of when to use "heated" vs. "heating" might mix up the two usages.)

It's important to remember that even if a deaf person has a strange sounding voice or doesn't speak fluent English, it doesn't mean that they're any less intelligent than a hearing person. It's simply a matter of not having the same exposure to spoken language that a hearing person has had. When deaf people are taught visual language, they have no trouble grasping a language.

It's also important to remember that even though some deaf people have a "deaf voice" or speak in broken English, other deaf people master speech and language quite well, so it's impossible to tell the full extent of someone's hearing loss based on their speech and language skills.

How do Blind and Deafblind People Use Computers?

How do blind and deaf-blind people use computers?

Depending on the extent of vision loss, blind people might either use magnification or text-to-speech. Magnification means a certain software program on the computer magnifies everything on the screen to be large enough for the person to see. These programs often also have options for increasing contrast, inverting colors, or changing to other color layouts that make it easier for the person to see. Blind people using magnification may or may not be able to see pictures and other graphics (such as smilies). It's best just to ask them if they can.

Text-to-speech is a software that converts text on the screen into a computerized voice. While many people have a hard time understanding synthetic speech, most blind people are used to it and can understand it fine. Speech readers have limitations in what they can interpret. Blind users with speech output can't see photos, and can't read documents that are image-based, such as scanned-in PDF files or websites that are formatted in image-based formats. Special programming (called alt-text) can allow computer users to add descriptions to photos, but unless this is specifically done, most images are simply read as "image" or the file name the image was saved as.

Deaf-blind and some blind people use braille output. Braille technology is extremely expensive so it's generally only used by those who really need it, such as deaf-blind people with not enough hearing to understand speech output and blind people who have jobs that require using the phone at the same time or looking closely at coding or punctuation. Braille output uses the same software as speech output, but rather than being read in a synthetic voice, the text on the screen is displayed on an attached hardware device with braille cells, called a refreshable braille display. The pins in a braille display move up and down into braille patterns and change as the screen changes or as the blind person interacts with the computer.

Like speech output, a braille output user cannot see images or any sort of image-based output. Unlike speech readers, braille users always have access to punctuation whereas speech reader users have to change their settings to be able to hear all punctuation.

Many blind or deaf-blind people use a combination of the three above mentioned adaptive technologies, such as speech and braille side by side, or braille and magnification. This aids them in being able to have more options for interface.

How can blind people type?

Most sighted people can look at the screen and don't need to look at the keyboard because their fingers know where the keys are. The same applies for most blind people. Blind people can also feel the grooves on the F and J keys to ensure correct placement. For blind or low vision people who haven't memorized the keyboard, there are large print and braille stickers that can be placed on the keys. There are also some keyboards available with large print or braille directly on the keys.

Ways to Communicate with a Deaf-Blind Person

Ways to Communicate with a Deaf-Blind Person

There are many ways of communicating with a deaf-blind person. If you happen to come across a deaf-blind person, let them tell you how to communicate with them. This list is just to help familiarize you with some of the ways beforehand. Before reading the list, please note that most deaf-blind people have some usable vision or hearing. Because a deaf-blind person can't compensate for the loss of one sense with the other, even a partial loss of both senses can be considered deaf-blind. So a "deaf-blind" person might be totally blind and hard of hearing, totally deaf and partially sighted, or may be close to totally blind and close to totally deaf but have some usable vision and hearing. Generally people that are only a bit vision- and hearing-impaired are referred to as vision-impaired/hard-of-hearing. But for someone who is totally one and partially the other, it's not uncommon to be considered deaf-blind.

Because of the wider definition of deaf-blindness, some deaf-blind people can use auditory or visual ways to communicate, but just need these ways to be modified for their poor vision or hearing. A good number of deaf-blind people can use some vision or hearing in some situations but are functionally totally deaf-blind in other situations. Some deaf-blind people are truly completely deaf and completely blind and therefore can only use tactile methods of communication in all situations.

1) Print on palm
This method involves printing letters on the palm of the person's hand. The way it works is that you use your finger as a writing utensil and write on the palm of their hand. When doing this, draw big, clear block letters. Make each letter fill up the whole palm. It takes a lot of concentration and effort on the deaf-blind person's (for most people), so make the letters as clear as possible when doing this. Small letters or cursive letters are nearly impossible to distinguish by touch. Though this may seem obvious, remember to write on their palm and not your own.

2) The Deaf-Blind Manual alphabet
The Deaf-Blind Manual alphabet is a modified version of the British Manual Alphabet, or the hand shapes used to finger spell in British Sign Language. This method can be found all over the Internet and learned quickly. It's just 26 hand shapes to indicate each letter of the alphabet. The original British alphabet uses two hands to form each letter, but the Deaf-Blind alphabet is modified so that you move your hand on the deaf-blind person's passive hand. Depending on where and how you make contact with their hand, it forms a letter. When finger spelling, make sure to do it clearly because many of the letters feel the same with sloppy signing. Better clarity than speed.

3) Large Print Notes
For someone who is totally deaf and legally blind, they might be able to see enough to see big letters on paper. In this case you might exchange notes on paper just as you would with a deaf-sighted person, but you would need to write or type in large bold letters. Let the person tell you what is easiest for them to read (all caps, bold, which font works best on a computer, etc.)

4) Speech with amplification
For someone who is totally blind and hard of hearing, they might still be able to understand speech through a hearing aid or FM system, which are both ways of amplifying speech. An FM system only amplifies, which makes speech louder but not clearer. Therefore several people talking in a room at once or a lot of background noise will still make it hard or impossible for the blind/hard-of-hearing to understand. Hearing aids are custom-made to the person's hearing loss so they tend to improve speech comprehension much more effectively. However, it can still be hard to make sense of sound in a noisy area.

5) Tactile finger spelling
Some deaf-blind people like to use what is called the Rochester Method, tactually. This is where you finger spell the American Sign Language (or whatever other sign language is used locally) into their hand. This obviously requires knowing the sign language alphabet. Don't assume all deaf-blind people know sign language. (Some went deaf later in life and haven't learned sign language.) But if both you and they know finger spelling, this method can be used. Keep in mind to let the deaf-blind person choose where to place their hand to interpret your finger spelling. Resist the temptation to correct their hand placement or hold their hand. They know where to hold their hand to understand, not you.

6) Close range sign language
Some deaf-blind people use full blown sign language at a close range, most commonly deaf-blind people who grew up or have spent a lot of time in a Deaf community using sign language for communication, and have lost some vision but still have enough to see signing up close. This obviously requires you knowing sign language. So if you do, you can sign to them, closer than usual.

7) Tracking sign language
This is used most often by deaf-blind people who grew up or have spent a long time using sign language and now have tunnel vision and can only see in the central part of their field. The way this works is that you sign normally, but let them hold your wrists to ensure your hands stay within their visual field. Sometimes this is done by you standing farther away than usual and signing within a small space so as to stay within their tunnel vision field.

8) Tactile sign language
Deafblind people that know sign language but have no useful vision for taking in signs visually receive it tactually. This means that as you sign to them, they place their hands lightly over yours and feel your signs. This requires you to sign in a smaller space than usual, so as to relieve the stress on their arms and shoulders. Let the deaf-blind person choose how to place their hands. They know what placement helps them understand best. Resist the temptation to sign big, exaggerated signs, because this ends up in extremely sore arms and shoulders for both of you the next day. Generally this requires an advanced knowledge of sign language so you can know how to make signs more neutral in space without sacrificing their meaning. The signs used are the same, except for some occasional modifications to make up for lack in facial expression and to disambiguate some signs that are hard to distinguish by touch. Usually this is done by finger spelling the sign right before or after signing it, or by coupling it with another sign. (An example is disambiguating "chicken" and "twenty" by signing "number twenty" and "chicken c-h-i-c-k-e-n.")

9) A deaf-blind communication device or braille display
Some deaf-blind people have a specific device for facilitating communication, where you can type back and forth, and where you receive visual output and they receive braille output. This can also be done with a TeleBraille (braille TTY, kind of like a phone for the deaf-blind) or a computer attached to a braille display. Again, you simply type to them, let them read the braille, and they can either type back to you or speak back to you, depending on if they can speak or not.

10) Braille card
This method is generally used for deaf-blind people that don't know print well or that have a hard time understanding print-on-palm. This involves having a card with the alphabet on it, both in print and braille. The way it works is you place their finger on the braille characters and spell out your message. Remember to point their finger onto the braille character and not the print character above/below it. Though this may seem obvious, remember to point their finger to the card and not your own.

11) Tadoma Method
This method is rarely used nowadays but you might still come across it. It's essentially tactile lipreading. The deaf-blind person places their hand or hands on your nose, mouth, jaw, and neck to feel the vibrations of your speech and understand your speech through these vibrations. The accuracy of comprehension from this method varies.

12) Co-active signing
This involves using sign language, but instead of signing in your own space and on your own body, you sign on the deaf-blind person's body. This method is generally reserved for deaf-blind people with a cognitive disability, but might also be useful for deaf-blind people with tactile issues who have a hard time interpreting direct tactile information and therefore need added kinesthetic information. A way to do this with letters is to move the deaf-blind person's arm, wrist, or finger in the shape of the letters.

13) Finger braille
This method is generally used with deaf-blind people who are familiar with a braille but don't know (enough) sign language. A braille typewriter, or Perkins brailler, has 6 keys representing each of the 6 dots of braille, and a space bar. To type braille, the person uses "chording" (where they hit one or more of the keys at once) corresponding to each of the 6 possible positions in the cell that is dotted for a particular cell. Finger braille works by typing on a virtual Perkins brailler, formed by three points on each wrist or palm. Each hand rests on the palm or the wrist of the person in the same configuration as the Perkins keys, and then you "type" to them.

Please remember that not all deaf-blind people know sign language or braille, or they might not feel fluent enough to use it as a method of communication. Braille doesn't come with blindness, nor sign language with deafness. They come with practice and usage. Let them offer which method to use so you don't have to play a guessing game. Another thing to keep in mind is that some deaf-blind people can speak and some can't. Some can speak but prefer not to because they have trouble making themselves understood. Speech skills don't necessarily relate to hearing loss, so just because someone speaks well doesn't mean they hear pretty well.

Generally speaking, people that went deaf before or around the time they started learning to speak have much more obstacles to overcome in terms of learning to speak. If they've gone deaf before/around learning to speak, they've had to rely on visual or tactile methods to learn speech, which is a lot harder to do than learning it by ear. Despite the added difficulty, some pre-lingually deaf people have achieved great speech skills and you might not even be able to tell they're deaf/hard-of-hearing based on their speech.

On the other hand, late-deafened people have learned to speak before they lost some or all of their hearing, so in general, these people have normal or close to normal speech. Generally late-deafened people have a harder time with volume control but otherwise maintain clear speech. For people that have become progressively deaf over a long period of time, they might have been able to keep their speech up, or they might have started to forget what words sound and feel like and might start slurring or mispronouncing words.

The important thing to remember is that each person has a different ability in terms of speech. If the deaf-blind person uses speech, they can reply to you that way (unless you require a different method yourself), and if not, they will use other methods such as communicating back to you the same way you communicate to them (typing, finger spelling, signing, etc.)

Another thing to keep in mind is that a partial vision or hearing loss can mean useful hearing/vision in some situations and functional total deafness/blindness in other situations. Just because someone can read large print in a dim room doesn't mean they can in the bright sunlight, or just because someone can understand speech in a quiet room doesn't mean they can understand speech in a noisy room.

Other factors such as fatigue, hormonal changes, or the very nature of their cause of deafness/blindness may cause their level of hearing/vision loss to vary. Please make sure to understand that someone's functional hearing or vision isn't always the same, and that when they say they cannot hear you or see you now, even though they could last night/yesterday/last week, doesn't mean that they're lying or being lazy. It just means that for whatever reason, their functional hearing or vision is worse now because of the lighting/sound conditions or other factors mentioned before. Sometimes when fatigue sets in from trying to use residual hearing or vision itself makes the person unable to continue using it.

The variation in functional vision/hearing also means that many deaf-blind people use more than one form of communication depending on the situation. Someone who can hear speech in total silence may need tactile signing in a noisy place, and someone who can see signing in bright light may be totally blind in the dark and need to receive it tactually, etc. Adjust your communication method with them based on their needs. If you're not sure, let them tell you what they need for communication.

How Can a Deaf or Blind Person Know I'm There?

How can a blind, deaf, or deaf-blind person know I'm here?

Blind, deaf, and deaf-blind people have many ways of being able to tell when someone is in their presence, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to you if a deaf/blind person reacts to your arrival.

For blind people, a blind person can hear your footsteps, anything shaking around in your bag. For deaf people, they may be able to feel your footsteps in the floor if you're coming from behind. They may also see you coming in a shadow on the wall or in the reflection of an object. For deaf-blind people, as well as deaf, or blind, people, they may be able to smell your cologne, feel the wind of you passing by, or sometimes just feel your presence. The same way many people can feel someone staring at them from behind works for some deaf/blind people, who can sometimes just feel the presence of another person.

Some deaf or blind people are more sensitive than others, so while some deaf/blind people may be able to tell you've arrived, others may not be able to tell and may need to have you let them know of your presence. Many people can tell in some situations and not others, and for many people it's simply a factor of how focused or distracted they are. It's always nice to inform a deaf, blind, or deaf-blind person that you are leaving or have come back because a deaf/blind might not always realize you left or came back.

How do I guide a blind or deaf-blind person?

Before guiding a blind or deaf-blind person, ask if they want to be guided first. If they do, then you can let them take your arm and guide them. Make sure to factor both yourself and them when moving around objects. Always offer your arm to the side that isn't holding a cane or guide-dog harness.

If the blind or deaf-blind person isn't using their cane or guide dog, it's useful to inform them of changes in terrain, such as curbs, hills, drops, when stairs begin, end, when you've arrived at an elevator, or when you're getting ready to make a right or left turn. If they are using their cane or guide dog, it's not necessarily to inform them of these changes because they're already getting this information from their cane or guide dog. While it's more common for blind people to take your arm, some deaf-blind people might want to take your hand if you are also using tactile sign language. Let them decide where to hold you.

When passing through narrow areas, extend your arm behind you. Most blind or deaf-blind people know to take this as a cue for single-file and will follow directly behind you. A significantly taller blind or deaf-blind person can also put their hand on your shoulder, and a significantly shorter blind or deaf-blind person can take your hand instead of your arm.

How to Get a Deaf or Deaf-Blind Person's Attention

How to Get a Deaf or Deaf-Blind Person's Attention

Something many people often don't know is how to get the attention of a deaf or deaf-blind person. For someone who is only deaf, there are several ways. For deaf people:

1) Wave
You can wave to them. Most deaf people have a heightened visual awareness and will notice your wave even if they're focused on something else. Wave small if you're close by and larger if you're far away.

2) Stomp your foot or knock on the table
You can send vibrations through the floor by stomping your foot or through a table you're both sitting at by knocking on it. Some floor types carry vibrations better than others. For example, a wooden floor will carry vibrations whereas if you stomp on a sidewalk, the deaf person probably won't even receive any vibrations.

3) Flash the lights
This is a more last resort way, especially if the deaf person is doing something like reading. But if the floor doesn't conduct vibrations well and you're behind the person, you can flash the lights.

4) Tap them on the shoulder
You can tap the deaf person lightly on the shoulder. This should also be used more as a last resort since being tapped can startle a lot of people easily.

For deaf-blind people:

1) Wave right in front of them.
A lot of deaf-blind people have some residual vision and may be able to see you waving your hand if you stand directly in front of them. For some totally blind people, they might be able to feel the wind your hand creates, but there are more useful ways to get the attention of a totally blind deafblind person. (Waving your hand directly in front of someone's face can feel disrespectful to some people.)

2) Stomp on the floor or knock on the table
This works the same way as with sighted-deaf people. Deaf-blind people can also feel the vibrations through the floor or a table you're both sitting at (provided they have their arm or hand on the table).

3) Touch their hand
You can touch the hand of a deaf-blind person lightly. This implies you want to start communication.

4) Tap them on the shoulder
Like with a deaf person, you can tap them on the shoulder, although this should be used as a last resort since it can startle them easily. This especially holds true in a street setting where the deaf-blind person might not be expecting someone to get their attention.

Speech Reading

Speech Reading

As is commonly known, many deaf people use speech reading to communicate with others. Some deaf people use it as primary means of communication, whereas others only use it when writing notes or using sign language isn't an option. Speech reading, unlike lip-reading, refers to understanding speech based on not only the movement of the lips, but facial expression, body language, and social context. Many lip-readers who have residual hearing also make great use of this hearing to make sense of lip movements. Speech reading skills vary from person to person, and aren't necessarily based on hearing loss levels, though residual hearing can be helpful. Speech reading is something that comes more naturally to some people than others, and that can be improved with practice for some but not all. Certain factors make it easier or harder for someone to speech read.

1) Lighting
Good light, especially on the face, make it easier to speech read. On the other hand, if someone is silhouetted against another light source behind them (like the sun or a strong lamp), then it's impossible to see their face and therefore speech read.

2) Distance
It's easier to lipread someone who is closer than someone who is far away, for obvious reasons (a better view). If someone is walking around or keeps turning around (which is common in classroom situations) then it makes it impossible for someone to speech read.

2) Facial hair and lips
People with facial hair make it very hard or impossible to lipread because the facial hair is obstructing the lips. Lipstick can help make lipreading easier, especially for people with low vision.

3) Accents or mumbling
People with accents or people who mumble are hard to lipread because the way they pronounce words (or fail to) looks different on the lips.

4) Exaggerated speech
People who exaggerate their lip movements or over-anunciate make it impossible to read their lips because the shapes they are forming aren't the ones naturally made with spoken language.

5) Natural gesturing
Most people gesture or use their hands at least a bit when speaking. This can help convey meaning for deaf people who are relying on the entire body language to understand what's being said. Be careful not to use exaggerated gesturing because this can be considered obnoxious or rude, and isn't helpful to comprehension. Pointing to things you're talking about is reasonable though, such as pointing to the gravy when you're asking "do you want your mashed potatoes with or without gravy?"

6) Topic changes
Speech reading or understanding speech with hearing loss requires heavy reliance on context. This is because it's much like trying to read something with letters missing, where the gaps have to be "filled in." How to fill in the gaps depends on the topic. If a sudden topic change occurs, it can become hard for a speech reader to follow. It's helpful to inform someone speech reading of sudden topic changes.

7) Shouting
Shouting doesn't help. The reason shouting doesn't help is because hearing loss not only effects how loud things sound, but also the clarity. When people shout, their speech often becomes even less clear than usual. It's also much harder to speech read someone who is shouting than someone who is speaking naturally.

Understanding Speech with Hearing Loss

Trying to understand speech with hearing loss takes a lot of mental energy and can be tiring after a short while. To make an analogy, speech reading is like landing in a country where you sort of speak the language but have to put more energy into understanding it. If you get tired, then it becomes much harder to understand. If you spend all day talking, you get tired and need some time alone or with your native language. The speakers you talk to most generally become the easiest to understand.

Well-paced, clear speech is generally easier to understand than fast and half-articulated speech. A lot of this works the same way for someone trying to understand speech with hearing loss. While they may be able to understand you fine, it does take an added mental effort. Just like with a foreign language, it's generally easier for a hard of hearing person to understand voices that they're more used to. And of course context helps a great deal. In a foreign country, if someone is handing you a cup while they say "coffee?" its much easier to understand. Likewise context helps a great deal with understanding speech.

To understand how speech and hearing loss work, hearing loss is defined by both frequencies and decibels. Frequencies relates to pitch, how low or high a note is, and decibels relates to volume, or how soft or loud something is. People with partial hearing loss can usually hear better in certain frequency ranges than other ones. Most deaf people even have a tiny bit of residual hearing, but it's not usually very useful. There are some completely deaf people too, though, who can't hear a thing.

For some people, they have some hearing in the range of speech, and for others, speech is completely out of their range of hearing. Obviously this will affect their ability to understand speech, along with their speech reading skills. Because of the complex nature of speech in terms of the frequency combinations, it's pretty common for someone to be able to hear environmental sound and music but have trouble understanding speech. It's important to keep in mind that just because someone can enjoy music or reacts to sounds doesn't mean they can understand what you're saying. There is a big difference between hearing speech and understanding it. Someone may be able to hear you speaking but it sounds garbled, muffled, or canned, so they can't make sense of what you're saying. Keep this in mind by not assuming that just because they can tell you're trying to speak to them, that they can understand you.

Yelling doesn't help because it only increases volume, often at the cost of losing clarity. Avoid the temptation to shout in deaf people's ears. Don't assume that a deaf person doesn't know you're shouting either. They can usually tell visually that you're yelling at them, and it can seem pretty insensitive even if that's not your intention.

The White Cane Law

The White Cane Law

There's a law, called the White Cane Law, that's supposed to protect white cane users, as well as guide dog users. It varies from state to state, from country to country. But the main premise is: keep an eye out for blind* people, cause they can't keep an eye out for you. So rather than comparing the details of one state or country's law to another's, let me just lay out the practical applications for this (or these) laws.

1) Most blind people can hear cars, most of the time. For the most part, blind people can hear you coming. Engines make noise and that noise can be pinpointed to a certain location. So generally speaking, blind people aren't nearly as oblivious as they're thought to be. Of course, there are some exceptions. A blind person may not be able to hear you if:
a. It's really noisy. Noise is the auditory equivalent of fog in your visual field. Trying to pinpoint a specific car in a noisy area is like trying to pinpoint a specific mountain in a distant mountain range on a foggy day. So blind pedestrians may not be able to hear your car specifically.
b. A silent engine. If your car makes very little or no noise, a blind person can't hear you. A guide dog might mistake you for a parked car if you're stopped at a red light.
c. Sound shadow. You might be in a "sound shadow," meaning that the noise your car is emitting might be blocked by another car or building between you and the blind person. In this case, they won't be able to hear that your car is there.
d. The blind person might also be deaf/hard-of-hearing or not be accustomed to relying on their hearing for navigation yet. In either case, the (deaf)blind person can't hear you. (In some countries, a white cane or white cane with a red tip indicates a hearing-blind person, and a striped red-and-white cane indicates a deaf-blind person. If the pedestrian has a striped red-and-white cane, or a guide dog with a red-and-white harness, it means they are both deaf and blind.)
e. Blind people, just like sighted people, sometimes get distracted, either by another outside stimulus or by their own thoughts. In general, blind people are in the habit of paying extra close attention as a way to compensate for their vision loss, but getting distracted happens to the best of us.

2) Most blind people know where they're going, most of the time. If you see a blind person walking, chances are they know exactly where they're going. If a blind person is lost, they know to ask for help. If a blind person doesn't know an area well, they know to arrange for help. If a blind person is alone, it's because they feel comfortable traveling alone. Just let them be, unless:
a. They ask for help.
b. They look lost (walking back and forth, standing still with a confused expression on their face), in which case, offer help. If they accept, then help. If they decline, then let them be. They might want to try to figure it out on their own, or they might just be waiting for someone.
c. There's an obvious temporary obstacle ahead. Something like a construction site might not have been there the last time they were here. A cane will find it and a guide dog will guide around it, but if it requires crossing the street a block ahead or at an intersection that has been moved from its original place, it's helpful to let them know. If it's a big puddle, it can be circumnavigated on the same side of the street and a cane or dog will find it, no problem.
Whatever you do, don't call the cops (unless the blind person is doing something illegal)! This may seem obvious, but it happens to me all the time. (My local police department told me they get calls about me on a daily basis.) So just wanted to put that out there.

3. Blind people have the right of way. If a blind pedestrian starts crossing the street, stop. Even if it's your light. Obviously they thought it was theirs, so let them cross. The time this happens the most often is on turn signals, where it's either green for both of you, or it sounds like it's green to them. Turning cars sound like they're going straight at first, which is the auditory cue for a green light. If a blind person starts crossing on a turn signal, don't turn! You could end up snapping their cane in two, or injuring them, which is way worse than pissing off the drivers behind you who also want to turn. Some major exceptions here are:
a. Don't stop on a green light to let a blind person cross who hasn't crossed yet. There's two reasons for this. One is, they already know it's your light, which is why they're waiting. Secondly, if there is more than one lane to the street, while you may have stopped for them, another car might come zooming because, well, it's their light. And they might not have the reaction time to stop for the blind pedestrian. This is one of the most common ways that blind people get killed crossing streets, so do yourself and them a favor and don't stop for them on your light if they haven't started crossing yet!
b. At an intersection with a stop sign, if they know you're there but aren't crossing, it's because most likely because they want you to cross first, so that they can ensure the road is clear and that you won't start going when they start crossing. It might also be because they're waiting to cross the other way, are debating which way to go, or they don't intend on crossing at all. If it looks like the blind person is aware of you being there but they aren't crossing, just go ahead.
Just some other miscellaneous tips that aren't necessarily about the White Cane Law, but that are relevant to street navigation.

1) You can offer to help a blind person cross the street but don't insist. If they decline, just let them cross alone.
2) If they accept your help, let them take your arm. Don't grab their arm. This scares the living crap out of people. And definitely don't grab their arm before offering help at all.
3) If a blind person asks for directions, don't use the terms "here" and "there," or "this way" and "that way." Words like "this" or there" only make sense when you're pointing somewhere, and the blind person can't see you pointing, so these words are useless. Use words like "straight ahead," "left," and "right."
4) While some blind people do have residual vision, since you don't know exactly how much the person you're talking to sees, use reference points that they can make use of. Don't tell them "it's the building with a blue and white awning." Tell them something like "it's the very first building on the block," or "it has some steps leading up to the entrance."
5) If the blind person doesn't respond to your offer, it might be because they are deaf/hard-of-hearing. Try waving your hand directly in front of them (respectfully). (The most common cause of deaf-blindness is a condition that causes tunnel vision and hearing loss, so they may be able to see you if you're directly in front of them.) If that doesn't work, try touching them lightly on the hand or tapping them gently on the shoulder. If they then respond and it turns out they are deaf-blind, let them tell you how to communicate with them. There are many ways of communicating with a deaf-blind person, but each person uses a different method, so just leave it to them to tell you what method to use.

*blind for the purposes of this post mean anyone with a significant visual impairment, whether partially or totally blind

Top Do's and Don'ts

Top Do's and Don'ts When Dealing with Deaf or Blind People (in no particular order)

1) Don't: treat us like we're stupid. Deafness or blindness does not affect cognition.
Do: treat us like you would anyone else. The average deaf/blind person has the same intelligence level as the average hearing/sighted person.

2) Don't: feel bad for us. Most deaf or blind people are adjusted to their deafness or blindness and are okay with it and have accepted it. If a deaf/blind person seems like they're having a bad day, there are just as many possible reasons why as for a hearing/sighted person. They aren't necessarily lamenting their condition.
Do: offer support if someone is clearly still adjusting, but don't join their pity party.

3) Don't: treat us like we're gods. We don't need our every little whim met and we don't have the right to boss you around either.
Do: use your usual standards for consideration and thoughtfulness, as you would anyone else. If you open doors for people, then feel free to open a door for us too.

4) Don't: yell. A blind person's hearing is perfectly intact and doesn't need to be yelled at. Yelling doesn't help a deaf person understand what you're saying either. Deaf, blind, or both, yelling gets you nowhere.
Do: use the communication method the deaf/blind person specifies.

5) Don't: avoid terms like "hear" and "see." We're perfectly aware of our sensory loss and don't need you to verbally walk on eggshells to feed our denial.
Do: use the same expressions as you would with anyone else, such as "see you later" or "did you hear about that?"

6) Don't: talk through another person to us. Don't ask a blind person's spouse what they want to order for dinner. Don't look at a deaf person's interpreter when speaking.
Do: speak to the blind or deaf person directly, even when speaking through an interpreter in the case of a deaf/deafblind person.

7) Don't: be afraid to ask about when or how we went blind or deaf, or how we do things.
Do: make it only one of the many topics you discuss. Deaf and blind people, like anyone else, like to talk about more than just one topic.

8) Don't: make fun of us. Some of us have a sense of humor, and some of us don't. Better to let the person set the tone first.
Do: treat us respectfully like any person, and do feel free to join in once the person has set a humorous tone.

9) Don't: assume we need help.
Do: offer it, and don't insist on helping if we decline.

10) Don't: try to take advantage of our deafness or blindness.
Do: realize that we often have alternative ways of finding out about the same things you use your ears or eyes to find out about.

11) Don't: take or touch a deaf or blind person's disability aid, such as a cane, hearing aid, cochlear implant, or guide dog.
Do: treat any disability aid like an extension of the person's body. If you are really curious, ask first and don't be surprised if the person declines.

12) Don't: assume we can't do the job.
Do: lay out the specific tasks that will be needed for a job and ask if we can do it, and if we will need accommodations.