A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

****THIS POST ORIGINALLY FROM FALL 2013****

When my husband and I bought our house, we were thrilled.  Children playing in the tree lined streets, walking distance to a park, and a beautiful view of mountains all around us, the only thing missing were white picket fences.  Only a few short months after we bought our house did we discover Addie’s hearing loss.  Things definitely changed; hearing aids instead of house projects, but the neighborhood was still great.  The neighbors closest to us were incredibly supportive of the changes in our lives, and we noticed parents making sure that their children were not mean to our little girl because she was different.  It was a big sigh of relief. 

Then one day as I was driving home from dropping Addie off at school, I noticed a sign “Deaf Children Near.”  I was curious about it.  I had never seen one and I was not sure if the family purchased the signs or if the city supplied them.  I went home and started researching. Forum discussions popped up first and I found myself caught in the debate as to if the signs should be put up.  It shocked me to see the arguments.  The safety could not be denied, but I was caught off guard by the “it embarrasses the person” or “parents should teach their child how to look both ways” remarks.  To be honest, I was confused.  Was it going to bring enough safety?  Would it bother my neighbors?  Would it stigmatize Addie?  I e-mailed her teachers and asked for their opinion, one a mother, one is not.  Both responded with a resounding “Yes.  Request it.  That is great!”  So, I did.  

deafsign.jpg

The city site did not have anything about that specific sign, but it was as simple as calling the city number and they put me in contact with the Transportation Department.  It was really simple.  I spoke with my contact, informed him of my request, and as we spoke he pulled up his map, said it should not be a problem and put in the work order.  Two weeks later the signs were posted, and I was absolutely amazed how quickly everything happened.  I was also ecstatic at the PERFECT location of one of the signs.  It was located on the bend leading to our street; free from branches blocking its message, and visible while driving up the hill, but not too high as to miss it once the street levels out.  It was perfect. (just a little redundant, maybe another way of describing it?)

Things were great, then 2 weeks later my husband arrived home from work late at night and noticed a sign on the light pole directly in front of our house.  He then walked down to the corner to see that the perfectly placed sign was gone.  We were in shock.  I did not receive an e-mail, a call, nothing.  Why was it moved?  A city policy?  A neighbor complaint?  We did not want to believe somebody could be that mean, but it seemed like the most logical answer.  Then the question became did this person have kids and didn’t want people to think their children were deaf?  Or was this an adult who clung to the crotchety old person stereotype?  We felt defeated.  Heartbroken.  At that moment, we questioned our decision to live in this area, we worried about how our daughter would be treated.  Would she be welcome?

Due to the time and the desire to create a paper trail, I e-mailed my contact asking why the sign was moved.  The next day was torture.  All I could do was sit and wait, and by the late afternoon my husband and my worst fear was confirmed.  A neighbor complained about the sign “cluttering” their front yard.  In fairness, the neighbor requested another sign be taken down, but that sign had been up for years, so you can figure out the real motive.  My contact sounded defeated and seemed to not be able to help us; it appeared his arms were tied.

We were upset.  No longer were we worried about how people would treat our daughter, we knew it was one person and not the entire street.  We were angered by the level of selfishness this individual possessed, and we were not going to stop fighting to get the sign moved back.  At that moment my husband drafted a letter to be placed in the mailboxes of our neighbors at the end of the street.  He asked for them to contact us and consider discussing having the sign put back up (one week has passed and we still haven’t received an e-mail).  I turned to Facebook.  Odd, I know, but our community has a page and I am constantly amazed at the level of support this page offers.  I pleaded for the person to contact me, to discuss the sign, but I made sure to be vague enough as to not elicit attacks on the person.  I was not sure if the complainer had an account.  He doesn’t, but curiosity struck and people were asking for more information.  After a few hours, I was talking to neighbors from the end of the street.  All of them agreeing that it was most likely one neighbor who has been a bully of the block.  It was upsetting to hear that if it was this guy, there was no getting through to him, but the support I was getting from people I have never met was uplifting.  Several people suggested getting signatures and that they would help; I was in tears.

Every caution/warning sign is more useful behind leaves. 

Every caution/warning sign is more useful behind leaves. 

With my new found support system, I e-mailed my contact at the city and asked these 3 simple questions:

1.  What is city policy when handling an aesthetic complaint in regards to a safety sign?    

 2.  What is the standard distance requirement for a warning sign?  Example: How far in front of a dip does the "Dip" sign need to be placed?  

 3. Would a petition to have the sign located back to the original location help?  If so, how many signatures would be needed to be taken seriously?

 Later that day I had a voicemail on my phone...

My contact apologized and said he was in the wrong.  He checked with his supervisor and the sign should not have been moved.  The current location was too close to what the sign was warning about.  They will be moving the sign back AND they will be talking to the neighbor who complained to inform him of the move and notify him of city policy. 

It has only been a week, and I expect it will be another week before the sign will be moved, but WE WON!  And to make it even sweeter, every neighbor that supported us on the FB thread offered to sign a petition if the city every moves the sign again.  Once again, it is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.