“The White House is on the phone for you.”
That was the message Ambriance Lamar, a senior at Whale Branch Early College High School, got during school Tuesday. President Barack Obama had gotten the letter she sent him in October. He was touched. The White House representative who called wanted Lamar’s permission to post the letter on the Oval Office’s official website.
“It was very exciting” learning that the leader of the free world had read her letter, Lamar, a huge smile spreading across her face, signed to Christa Jowanowitch, an interpreter with the Beaufort County School District.
And yes, it was fine to post it.
Lamar contracted West Nile virus at age 2 after being bitten by mosquitoes while visiting family for the summer in Columbus, Ga. A series of strokes followed, leaving her paralyzed on the left side of her body, unable to speak and, for a time, walk.
In August, Lamar, 18, whose hearing is not impaired, learned about a deaf and mute male who was shot and killed by a North Carolina police officer because of a miscommunication between the two, she wrote to the president.
“I became afraid for my life and all of the people that use sign language,” Lamar, who got her driver’s license around the time of the shooting, said Wednesday when asked what prompted her to write Obama.
The man’s death, she said, could have been avoided if the officer had known about the victim’s disability before he approached the vehicle.
That’s why Lamar wrote the president.
“The DMV should put an alert into the driver’s license system when people come to get or renew their license and (offer) a tag for their vehicle indicating that the person is either deaf or speech-impaired,” she wrote. Such efforts will mean there is no miscommunication and the officer can call for an interpreter to explain why they were stopped, the letter said.
Officers, she explained, would also understand why a deaf or speech-impaired person would reach for something after being pulled over — a phone, on which Lamar has an app that she uses for text-to-voice communication in lieu of an interpreter.
Brad Taracuk, Lamar’s history teacher, told her that, since Obama is about to leave office, there might not be a lot he can do to help with the legislation. The plan, Taracuk said, is to work with South Carolina’s representatives in Washington, including Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham.
Lamar is ranked 14th in her class of 125 students. She has a 4.1 GPA and has already been accepted to Benedict College in Columbia and Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.
Should she get pulled over while in college, she signed, “the police need to know that I, myself and other people, we can’t talk or hear.”