Although I’m a law-abiding citizen, one of my biggest fears is being stopped by the police and them not being able to understand me because of my disability.
This subject came to light after I started hearing about a couple incidents that happened in my community and around the country. Individuals who had a disability where unable to communicate effectively to the police and therefore, lead to some unfortunate happenings.
Now, I’m not here to bash the police, for we need them to keep “us” safe. The world would be in complete disarray without them. With this said, the disability community is part of the “us” they need to keep safe. If they’ve never interacted with people with disabilities or been properly trained on how to interact and communicate with our community, they’re not going to know how too, which can cause things to go bad. This becomes an even bigger issue when it comes to physical interaction.
For instance, due to my disability, cerebral palsy, my muscles are stiff and can be difficult to move. They are especially very difficult to move in the winter because the cold makes them even stiffer. If I were to be hand-cuffed with my hands behind my back, there’s a great risk my arm or wrist would break. If I “had” to be hand-cuffed, it would have to be from the front to assure the risk of not breaking my bones.
In cases such as mine and others with disabilities, law enforcement should be aware.
Thanks to Adult Advocacy Centers (AAC) and Deaf World Against Violence Everywhere (DWAVE) who’s now providing disability awareness training to law enforcement, perhaps incidents against people with disabilities will be less.
AAC and DWAVE are agencies that advocate for people with disabilities, who’s rights have been violated, is now training law enforcement on how to interact with people with disabilities as well as the basics of the do and don’ts, which if not known, could bring physical harm. I’m happy to hear my community is one that has been through their training.
I do know that there are other things being done to improve communication between law enforcement and the disability community. Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) has created a voluntary database for people with disabilities who drive. The database allows an officer to already know if a person has a disability and what assistance he or she may need to communicate. OOD also created a training video for law enforcement and a communication card for the deaf and hard of hearing to improve interaction.
At the end of day, everyone just wants to be understood. I’m hopeful the following initiatives will improve communication between law enforcement and people with disabilities to assure everyone’s safety.