By Jessica Mathews /

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is highlighting recent changes to state law that allow residents to add a communication impediment designation to their driving record to help ensure safer interactions with law enforcement.

Benson continued her tour of branch office locations across the state with stops in Howell and Mason on Monday.

Benson was joined in Mason by representatives from a number of autism and deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing advocacy groups. She says the implementation of the designation not only facilitates effective communication between officers and citizens but also helps diminish anxiety surrounding these interactions.

Dr. Colleen Allen, President, and CEO of the Autism Alliance of Michigan called the change a victory for the autism community. She said the designation will not only keep people safe but it will help give Michiganders with autism a new opportunity – the ability to navigate their communities knowing that, whether in an emergency or routine traffic stop, law enforcement can be made aware of their needs and tailor their interaction to them.

The communication impediment designation program is voluntary and there is no cost to apply.

The designation is not printed on the actual license, ID, or vehicle registration but added to the individual’s record. To add the designation, individuals may submit a communication impediment designation form to the department by mail, email, or fax. Forms may also be submitted during a branch office visit.

A licensed physician, physician assistant, certified nurse practitioner, or physical therapist must certify that the individual requires special considerations when communicating.

Legislation to add audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and psychologists to the list of healthcare professionals allowed to certify about an individual’s special communication needs is currently pending.

A press release is attached with more information.