Michigan lawmakers aim to improve how police interact with people who have autism or hearing issues


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate on Wednesday aimed to improve police officers’ interactions with those with autism or hearing issues by unanimously passing bills that would let people voluntarily designate their disorders when registering a car and getting a driver’s license.

The legislation would allow those with autism or hearing problems to elect a “communication impediment designation.” It was sent to the House for consideration.

Under the legislation, law enforcement would be notified of the designation when using a statewide computerized information system typically accessed during traffic stops.

The bills are designed to help police avoid misinterpreting behaviors by those with autism and know when someone may have troubling hearing questions or commands.

One of the sponsors, Republican Sen. Tom Barrett of Charlotte, said the legislation would provide officers with “invaluable information about a possible communication hurdle” during traffic stops, helping them have positive interactions with a driver with autism or other communication impediment. He credited a constituent with autism, Xavier DeGroat, and other autism advocates for their work on the bipartisan measures.

Police departments large and small have had difficulties responding to calls involving autistic people.

The designation could not appear on the driver’s license or state ID card itself. Barrett said the Law Enforcement Information Network is a secured system and not accessible to members of the public, protecting the privacy of those who volunteer that they are autistic, are deaf or have hearing loss.

Someone wanting the designation would have to give the secretary of state’s office a certification of their impediment that is signed by a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or physical therapist.

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