Coral Gables

Coral Gables police department introduces tool for autistic residents

The Coral Gables police department produced a video on how and when to use the wallet card, as well as tips on how to safely interact with law enforcement and first responders.
The Coral Gables police department produced a video on how and when to use the wallet card, as well as tips on how to safely interact with law enforcement and first responders. Courtesy of Disability Independence Group

At Wednesday’s City Commission meeting, Coral Gables Interim Police Chief Ed Hudak presented a new tool that would facilitate communication between officers and residents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or intellectual disabilities.

The wallet card allows officers to better communicate with people with ASD. It’s a free personalized identification card for teenagers and adults who have ASD that is designed to help them communicate with officers or first responders about their disability and some of the challenges they face.

This program, which will be made available in the next few weeks, was inspired by Coral Gables Lieutenant Bart Barta, who has a son with autism.

Barta collaborated with two Gables residents who work at the Disability Independence Group, a nonprofit organization that promotes recruitment, education and employment of persons with disabilities.

“He felt that there is truly a need,” spokeswoman Kelly Denham said. “Someone who has a cognitive issue could be portrayed as somebody who is not following police commands, or might appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when it is not the case. The wallet card will help ease that communication and help officers understand more.”

The Coral Gables police department backed Barta’s pitch, and produced a video on how and when to use the wallet card, as well as tips on how to safely interact with law enforcement and first responders.

At the meeting, Hudak and Barta discussed the benefits of the card with commission members, and the City Commission approved it. Coral Gables will be the first department in the country to use the wallet card, according to police staff.

The Wallet Card Project is a partnership between Disability Independence Group, the Coral Gables Police Department and the University of Miami/Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities.

Residents can sign up for the card online at www.justdigit.org/wallet-cards if they have been diagnosed with autism or an intellectual disability. Then a customized wallet card will be mailed to them in about a week.

For more information email debbie@justdigit.org.

Follow @MoniqueOMadan on Twitter; @MoniqueOMadanMH on Facebook.

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