Bill progresses on communication between law enforcement and people with disabilities

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, has announced that the Ohio House concurred on House Bill 115, a bill that establishes a voluntary program to help facilitate effective communication between law enforcement and individuals with communication disabilities.

Under the legislation, jointly sponsored by Gavarone and Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster, an individual 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.

“This process started with a simple meeting in Wood County with my constituent, and now here we are after unanimous votes in the House and Senate,” Gavarone said.  “Parents like Jenny Hughes worry constantly about the safety of their children with communication disabilities. I am thrilled that this legislation will give them a little peace of mind.”

Ultimately, the legislation aims to be a positive, beneficial resource for the law enforcement community and people who suffer from communication disabilities such as autism, a hearing impairment and PTSD. By notifying officers that the driver may have difficulty speaking before they approach the vehicle, it allows them to put into action their training for how to best serve disabled individuals.

The bill allows Ohioans over the age of 18 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 to which only offices have access, providing privacy to those who choose to enroll.

The House concurred on Senate amendments. The first change specifies that people who have a “disability that can impair communication,” in addition to persons who have a communication disability, can be covered under the legislation. The other change outlines a process for individuals who wish to be removed from the database.

The legislation now goes to the governor for his consideration.