Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed three bills into law that would let drivers on the autism spectrum or those with hearing loss (or a family member) voluntarily disclose a “communication impediment designation” when getting a driver’s license or registering their vehicle with the secretary of state.
Xavier DeGroat, CEO of the Xavier DeGroat Autism Foundation, worked on the bill in conjunction with Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, and also received support from Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth.
According to DeGroat, Michigan is one of the first states to make the designation, which would show up once a police officer ran a license plate on the Michigan Law Enforcement Information Network, allowing officers to know what to be prepared for upon interaction. The state of Ohio passed a similar law in 2018 and the state of Texas passed the Samuel Allen Law in 2019.
The change, beginning in 2021, means officers will be required to run plates before exiting their vehicles. The information obtained could make a sizeable difference in avoiding misunderstandings that could intensify interactions with officers.
“Awareness isn’t enough, but acceptance is” said DeGroat. “Now I’m in the midst of taking this initiative to the federal level to expand the principles of these laws for national change”.