Officials promoting new program to Ohioans with communication disabilities

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The state wants to increase public awareness about a program designed to reduce misunderstandings between law enforcement officers and Ohioans with a communication disability.

Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) released a new video Friday that shows how individuals with a diagnosed communication disability can voluntarily enroll in a database to inform law enforcement.

OOD is the state agency responsible for empowering Ohioans with disabilities through employment, disability determinations, and independence

OOD Director Kevin Miller said the program was introduced to law enforcement agencies last year. Now the focus is on public awareness.

“So we’re not saying today that this solves everything,” Miller said. “But what we are saying is that it narrows the scope of misunderstandings significantly by giving more information to the law enforcement officer.”

Any individual with a medically diagnosed communication disability who drives or regularly has someone with a medically diagnosed communication disability in their vehicle, can voluntarily enroll in a database that connects to the Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS).

The law enforcement officer is then alerted that the driver or a person in the vehicle may have difficulty communicating and can approach the vehicle with that awareness.

Chris Page knows firsthand how a communications disability can impact a traffic stop.

Page was pulled over in March 2016 on suspicion of driving under the influence. His lack of eye contact and odd mannerisms made the officer all the more suspicious.

After failing the field sobriety test, Page was arrested.

However, Page wasn’t under the influence. He has autism.

“They need to know that,” said Chris’ mother Diane Page. “Officers want to know that and they will approach that car with a better understanding.”

Diane Page helped lead the charge for the Communications Disabilities law that took effect in August 2018. Chris is one of several hundred Ohioans already enrolled.

“It makes him feel more relaxed because he was tense, fearful of ever being pulled over again and now he knows that there will be a better understanding,” said Diane Page.

“We want everyone to know about this Ohio law and how it supports the safety of people in our community who have challenges communicating,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “This is a great way to boost understanding, but we need participation to make it happen.”

Individuals interested in enrolling need to obtain verification of their communication disability from a physician, psychiatrist or psychologist.

Completed forms should be submitted to the BMV.

“This has been a game-changer for individuals with communication disabilities,” said Kevin Miller, director of OOD. “By opting in, a communication disability is flagged for law enforcement, but exact disabilities remain private.”

The video, additional information about the Communication Disability Law, and additional quotes of support are available here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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