SoS unveils new speech impediment designation

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan is rolling out a new designation for people with communication impediments. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson held a press conference Monday promoting the designation.

The legislation that was signed in June 2020 took effect at the beginning of July. It allows people with autism or some form of hearing disability to sign up for a specialized designation attached to their vehicle registration.

Traffic stops and other police encounters can be challenging for people with autism. Sirens and flashing lights can overload the senses and make people more anxious and even act erratic, which can cause incidents to escalate.

Colleen Allen, the CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, says this change will give police officers a better understanding to de-escalate a potentially tense situation.

“We want to make sure that (families) have everything they need to keep their young child or adult child safe, and sometimes that means what happens in a police encounter,” Allen said. 

The designation is completely voluntary and isn’t noted on an ID. The designation pops up when a police officer runs a license or a plate.

Allen said that was a key decision when drafting the legislation.

“We were opposed to any sort of external vehicle designation, like a sticker or on the actual license plate for obvious reasons: It can be stigmatizing,” Allen said. “And again, adults that don’t want to disclose or those that don’t want to be asked about their autism everywhere they go.”

To apply for the designation, contact your local Secretary of State branch. A note from a medical professional is required to finish the process.

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