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Bill proposes indicator on drivers licenses for people with autism

TOWN OF DICKINSON (WBNG) — A new bill in New York State hopes to eliminate a potentially dangerous misunderstanding between law enforcement and people with autism.

“Even if they don’t want to give us anything else, if they’re argumentative or they aren’t communicating at all, if we can get a driver’s license and see that symbol on there we’re gonna know this person is autistic,” said Lieutenant Ben Harting of the Broome County Sheriff’s Office.

Proposed by Assemblyperson Nader Sayegh the bill would allow people living with autism to add a marking to their license that would notify police and first responders of their condition.

“The person may not be cooperative but the identifying feature would allow law enforcement personnel to know that there is an issue there and how to address it appropriately,” Harting said.

If passed, the bill would allow officials to know right away that a person is living with autism and may struggle with communication and responding to commands.

“I’m going to proceed forward knowing that this person has a potential learning disability or they’re autistic they may not be responding to my commands or my requests but it’s not because they’re being disobedient,” said Harting

Harting says there are some privacy concerns with the new bill.

“I know there are concerns that people don’t want that label on their driver’s license and don’t want people to know that they are autistic,” Harting said.

Harting also told 12 news that officers are trained in how to handle people with autism and other mental health conditions, and this bill would allow them to more easily put that training into action.

“We do frequent in-service training twice a year and part of that we do different mental health crisis intervention. We’ve had people come in and work with us on how to deal with people who are autistic, and at the same time taking a step back and trying to calm the person,” said Harting.

The bill would also apply to non-license New York State identification cards.

While there is not currently a vote scheduled on the bill, if passed it would go into effect immediately.

Jack Arpey

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