Man says state won't let him take truck-driving test because he's deaf

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

MIAMI - A 40-year-old man claims the State of Florida is discriminating against him by not allowing him to take his commercial driver's license test.

Floyd McClain said he wants to drive an 18-wheeler, but the state won't let him because he's deaf.

"I'm qualified," McClain said. "I went through all of the paperwork. I got the federal waiver necessary for the hearing. I'm ambulatory. I'm a strong guy. I feel good. The only thing is the deafness."

McClain has had a driver's license for 24 years and has a clean driving record.

The former Disney chef loves to drive so much he's been trying to make a career of it.

"There's slight hearing. I have some residual on my right side (and) none on my left," he said.

Dozens of deaf drivers across the country have their commercial driver's license.

In 2013, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said it would grant hearing exemptions to deaf interstate truckers.

McClain got his waiver, but Florida will not allow him to take the CDL test.

An email McClain got from the trucking school said the state doesn't know how to test the deaf.

"(The state) is prohibiting us from testing deaf students because they have not been given guidance from the federal sector on how to properly and safely administer these tests to individuals who are deaf," the email said.

"The bottom line is they have to allow testing," attorney Matthew Dietz, of the Disability Independence Group in Miami, said.

Dietz is representing McClain and said if other states have figured it out, why hasn't Florida?

"There are hand signals that can be done during testing," Dietz said. "There are things that can be done by writing back and forth or by using interpreters. There's no real difference." 

McClain said he's actually less distracted than most of us.

What about hearing sirens?

"When ambulances (or) emergency vehicles (come), there's a visual cue and I can see that in the mirrors, and I know immediately because I'm scanning the mirrors," McClain said. "I can go ahead and get over."

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles said it has no comment because of pending litigation.

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