COLORADO — The Colorado Department of Motor vehicles announced new methods of identifying disabilities to serve Coloradans better.
Anyone in Colorado can now let the DMV know if they have a disability that affects their ability to communicate with first responders or government officials.
The hope is that these new services will help first responders identify and know if a person has a disability. The new program looks to put subtle identifiers on driver's licenses, state identifications, and vehicle registrations.
The disability identifier will appear to include but is not limited to cognitive disabilities, neurological diversities, mental health disorders, sensory needs, chronic illness, and physical disabilities.
Commander Tim Johnson with the Monument Police Department said the identifier gives law enforcement a starting point for approaching a situation when communication might be difficult.
"The minute you see the identifier, it should make you slow down and say, 'Okay, what am I dealing with? What are the potentials that I'm dealing with?' So I think it'll help us just slow down and maybe take a different avenue than we would have normally taken," Johnson said.
Fiona and Marc Feickert have six children, all of whom face some type of disability. Their two oldest sons have autism but can communicate well and have their driver's licenses. However, Marc said he is sometimes worried about their potential interaction with law enforcement during an emergency.
"Sometimes in traffic emergency situations, I've worried about them not knowing, okay, I've got to pull over. And then what's the next common sense thing to do?" he said.
The Feickerts say interaction with law enforcement could definitely trigger different responses for other people with disabilities, but the new identifier shouldn't be used as a one size fits all approach. Fiona said in instances of a police chase or extreme emergencies, the police usually do not ask for an ID first.
"They [people with disabilities] could become nonverbal. They could become aggressive because it triggers fight. In that moment, they're not acting as you would expect them to," said Fiona.
The legislation comes three years after the death of 23-year-old Elijah McClain. He was on the autism spectrum and died after Aurora EMTs gave him a dose of ketamine after he resisted arrest.
Marc said the news of McClain's death hit home for him as a father of children with autism.
"I can see our oldest son being a bit belligerent when approached under certain circumstances," he said.
The Feickerts said the disability identifier was passed with good intentions, but parents of children with disabilities should still have conversations with them about safety.
Coloradans will need their health care provider to sign a DMV Application for Disability Identifier in order for the identifier to be added to their license or registration.
For those who add the disability identifier to their driver's license or ID, the identifier will also appear on their Colorado Digital ID™ via the myColorado™ app. For more information on the Digital ID.
For more information about the disability identifier.
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