Secretary of State Benson highlights new designation to help residents facing communication barriers

LANSING, Michigan – Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson stopped by Mason on Monday to meet with voters with communication problems.

Benson spoke with representatives from several autism, deaf, hard of hearing and deafblind advocacy groups to highlight changes to state law that allows residents to include a new designation in their driving record. The hope is that the description, called a communication barrier designation, will lead to better interactions with law enforcement.

“Notifying law enforcement agencies of the needs of the citizens they interact with helps ensure the safety and comfort of everyone involved,” Benson said at the meeting. “This not only facilitates effective communication between officers and citizens, but also helps reduce the anxiety surrounding these interactions, opening new doors of opportunity for all Michiganders.”

“I defended and testified for this bill because of my experience as an autistic person arrested by an officer and having a panic attack because of it, and the officer did not know how to react,” said Xavier DeGroat of Xavier. DeGroat Autism Foundation, which helped defend the legislation. “That is why I have advocated for this and I am happy to see these bills come into force.”

Michiganders with a communication problem can apply through the Secretary of State’s office at no cost. The designation is not printed on a license or vehicle registration, but added to an individual’s file.

“Fully 7.4 percent of Michigan residents identify as deaf, deaf, blind or hard of hearing. We are a diverse community with equally diverse preferences and communication tools that we rely on to communicate in our daily lives, ”said Annie Urasky, Director of the Michigan Division on the Deaf, Deafblind and the Deafblind. hearing impaired. “This voluntary designation for driver’s licenses and state ID cards gives our community an important additional tool to facilitate communication with the police.”

The Communication Barrier Designation Program was developed to help law enforcement agencies improve their interactions with the public. According to Benson’s office, when officers find out about a person’s communication disorder, they’ll be in a better position to help them.

For example, Michiganders with autism are often sensitive to loud sounds and flashing lights. With this information, sirens and flashing lights can be controlled when an agent is working with a person who is overwhelmed by them.

Awareness is the first step to understanding, and for a person with autism, understanding opens doors, ”said Colleen Allen, Ph.D., President and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan. “This designation will not only ensure the safety of people, but will help give Michiganders with autism a new opportunity – the ability to navigate their communities knowing that, whether in an emergency or a routine traffic shutdown. , the police can be informed of their needs and adapt their interaction with them.

More information can be found here.

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