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Identifying Disability On a Driver’s License

Three years ago, The Today Show featured a story about a New York father who worried that his 18-year-old son, who is on the autism spectrum and had recently gotten his driver’s license, would be treated differently by law enforcement if he was ever pulled over because of his disability. 

“My worry is that he would shut down, and not really understand why he’s getting pulled over. Then, when somebody walks up to the car – if it’s two officers, one on each side – I think he would get nervous and maybe just put his hands on the wheel and not say anything, which then would cause the officer to get nervous which is understandable” said Peter Gagliardo about his son on The Today Show. He urged people with similar concerns to reach out to their state’s lawmakers and encourage them to draft a bill that would allow people with autism (and other disabilities) the choice to disclose their disability on a license. Since then, states such as Florida, Michigan, Washington, and Louisiana passed bills allowing an autism diagnosis to be identified on one’s driver’s license.

The symbol representing Autism Spectrum Disorder on one’s license plate is a puzzle piece. Some states feature a blue puzzle piece while others feature a multi-colored puzzle piece.

In 2019, a bill in New Hampshire relating to disclosing Autism Spectrum Disorder on a driver’s license was passed with bipartisan support. After Jadine Levesque’s son Michael was pulled over by a law enforcement officer who didn’t realize he had autism, she researched the possibility of adding this information to his driver’s license. Now, Jadine, who is on our organization’s Board of Directors, is hoping to spread the word about this option so more people can have their autism diagnosis included on their driver’s license if they want to. “It is important for police officers to know if someone has a medical disorder. Hopefully if a police officer sees that someone has autism or other medical disorder – they will be more understanding,” Jadine said. Jadine and her son Michael said they believe physicians, driver’s education teachers, those who work at the department of motor vehicles and for our state’s ten area agencies should be aware of this so they can educate families about this option.

You can find the Medically Recognized Disorder Indication form on our state’s DMV website: https://www.dmv.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt416/files/inline-documents/dsmv643.pdf. The form must be signed by a licensed physician and dropped off at a New Hampshire DMV dropbox. You can learn more about RSA 263:41-b which is currently specific to those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

Having one’s autism diagnosis on a license may not only be informative when it comes to being stopped by law enforcement, but may also be essential in the case of a medical emergency. Medical professionals may be more cautious about triggers, and sensory concerns if they are aware that the person they are assisting has autism. 

Jadine and Michael hope they and other advocates in our state can continue to educate about this option, and compel other states that don’t yet offer this option to consider it. 

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