Police departments across Connecticut are working to make people aware of blue envelopes now available for drivers living with autism spectrum disorder. The goal of the colored envelope is to bridge a communication gap between officers and people living with disabilities.
Lawmakers passed a public act, which became effective January 1, 2020, that requires the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles to make blue envelopes available for anyone living with the disorder. The envelopes are meant to hold a driver’s registration and license. The outside of the envelope has information for drivers on traffic stops and tips on how to react.
The envelopes signal to officers that the driver is living with a disability and they may need to communicate differently.
"It will allow us to learn more about the person we are dealing with and allow us to do our job better,” said Officer Heather McClelland, a community officer with the Town of Groton Police Department.
The Town of Groton Police Department is just one department of many across Connecticut that has stocked up on the envelopes. City of Groton, Waterford and New London also all have the envelopes available in their lobbies. If a police department does not have the envelopes yet, they can be picked up at any DMV location in the state.
The program is gaining praise from autism advocates such as the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center.
"It is going to reduce the stress for everyone involved,” said John Flanders, executive director of the center.
The center spends a lot of time working with parents of children living with disabilities, including autism. He said that their goal is to encourage safety, participation and communication in the community at large. Flanders believes the envelopes help accomplish all three parts of the mission.
Parents also said they were happy to see the envelopes created. Leona Adamczyk has a 13-year-old son, Matthew, who is living with autism.
"The stress is are they going to perceive him the right way? Just because you have had an interaction with someone with autism doesn't mean my son is going to react the same way,” said Adamczyk.
Adamczyk said that the envelopes will only be effective if they are also paired with autism training for officers, but as her son approaches driving age, she said that the envelope is a step in the right direction.
“It is a more confident feeling for me that the interaction is going to go more smoothly,” said Adamczyk.
The blue envelope joins a green envelope that has been available in Connecticut for years. The green envelope is for drivers who are hearing impaired.
"It helps us, it helps the public, it just kind of clears the air on some things,” said McClelland.