News Article Details

Bill would allow people with autism to obtain special notation on license

Hartford Courant - 2/14/2019

Feb. 14--Rep. Liz Linehan, D-Cheshire, is proposing legislation that would allow people with autism spectrum disorder to obtain a special driver's license to alert law enforcement.

House Bill 5559 would establish a system for people with the disorder to receive a special driver's license with a blue frame around the photograph if they chose to.

Linehan and other advocates of the bill say it is needed because people with autism often react differently to police. "A police officer is normally trained when they have to take down an individual to put them in the prone position with their knee on their back," Linehan told members of the legislature's transportation committee on Wednesday. "However individuals with autism sometimes have an under-developed chest put them in the prone position with your knee on their back can cause them to suffocate."

But the acting state Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner, Judeen Wrinn, said in written testimony that there are logistical issues with the proposal, as well privacy concerns.

And Kathy Flaherty, executive director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, a non-profit agency that provides legal services to low income adults with serious mental health conditions, said an identifying mark on a person's license could make them less safe. Licenses are a key piece of personal identification and are shown to many other people, in addition to police.

"While I understand the motivations behind this bill and believe this proposal was made with the best of intentions, I am not convinced it is going to make anybody safer," Flaherty told the committee.

Police already undergo special training on how to deal with people on the autism spectrum.


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