CAPITOL — The state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has started issuing standardized identification cards for people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, upon request, the agency announced on Friday.
The goal of the ID cards for individuals with disabilities is to help first responders – such as law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel – better understand and interact with people with developmental disabilities who may not be able to communicate their situation effectively.
The program grows out of legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and state Sen. Pamela Helming, R-Canandaigua. Santabarbara said he was inspired to push for the new ID cards by his teenage son, who has autism. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the legislation last year and charged the Office for People With Disabilities Disabilities with creating the ID card program.
The cards, which are optional for people with developmental disabilities, are free.
"With this new initiative, New York is taking another critical step to help find solutions to the challenges those with disabilities face each day,” said Santabarbara, who is chairman of the Assembly’s Sub-Committee on Autism Spectrum Disorders.
“Offered as a communication tool, the first-of-its kind Disability Identification Card is unique and easily recognizable throughout the state, replacing locally issued identification and the homemade notes we have seen in the past," he said. "Whether it’s an interaction at the airport, in a crowded theme park, or with first responders during an emergency, the cards can help individuals, parents or guardians easily communicate important information about a person’s diagnosis and describe some of the challenges they may face during an emergency."
The front of the ID cards display the statement: "I have a developmental disability. I may have difficulty understanding and following your directions or may become unable to respond. I may become physically agitated if you prompt me verbally or touch me or move too close to me. A developmental disability is not an excuse for illegal behavior. I am not intentionally refusing to cooperate. I may need your assistance. Please see the back of this card."
The back of the card includes the card bearer’s name, address, date of birth and emergency contact information. People with developmental disabilities or their loved ones can request a card by visiting https://opwdd.ny.gov/