(Submitted by Ohio House of Representatives)
The Ohio House today voted in favor of House Bill 115, which would establish 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.
Under the legislation, sponsored by State Representatives Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and 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 comprehensive legislation greatly aids law enforcement and individuals with communication disabilities,” said Wiggam. “House Bill 115 should serve as a national model to support families and communities across the country.”
Both Gavarone and Wiggam introduced this legislation after being approached by constituents in their districts 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 goal of this legislation all along was to improve communication between law enforcement and those with communication disabilities,” Gavarone said. “There’s no doubt we accomplished that and I look forward to this bill moving through the Senate and getting to the Governor’s desk.”
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.
House Bill 115 is a Buckeye Pathway bill aimed at strengthening Ohio families and communities. The legislation now goes to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.