COLUMBUS—State Representative Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) today announced that Governor John Kasich has signed House Bill 115, establishing a voluntary program through the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) to help facilitate effective communication between law enforcement and individuals with communication disabilities, such as autism, deafness, and PTSD.
Under the legislation, joint sponsored by Wiggam and State Representative Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), individuals may voluntarily submit a verification form, signed by their physician, to the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles to be designated as an individual with a communication disability. This information is then made available to state and local law enforcement only through the Law Enforcement Automated Data Systems, more commonly referred to as LEADS.
“I designed this voluntary, no-labels, initiative in hopes of reducing the communication gap between citizens with speech disabilities and law enforcement officers. This law will provide our citizens with peace of mind knowing that they will have a safer encounter with authorities," said Wiggam.
The bill was introduced after Wiggam and Gavarone were approached by constituents who had teenagers with communication disorders and were beginning to drive. These parents were concerned that if their child was pulled over, they may not be able to effectively answer the officer’s questions, which could potentially be seen as a cause for concern. For these instances, this database helps law enforcement approach a driver knowing they have difficulty speaking, and allows that officer to immediately rely on their training for how to best serve disabled individuals.
The bill allows Ohioans over the age of eighteen to enroll in the system, as well as minors who are enrolled by their parents or guardians. The database would also be a private, no-labels system that only officers have access to, providing privacy to those who choose to enroll.