First-of-its-Kind New York State Autism I.D. Bill Passes Assembly

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara announced Saturday the passage of his legislation creating the state’s first Autism Spectrum Disorder Identification Cards.

The legislation, which passed the Assembly with unanimous support, would provide New Yorkers diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder the option to obtain an identification card that would assist in their interactions with law enforcement and in emergency situations (A.8389-A). The card is designed to serve as an effective communication tool that will convey information about a person’s diagnosis, such as trouble following directions and an aversion to physical contact or shared space.

There would also be an option to include emergency contact information on the card. The I.D. card would be the first standardized identification card of its kind in New York, replacing locally issued identifications and homemade notes. Identification cards will be obtained through the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities.

“This optional identification card can be another effective communication tool to help people with Autism Spectrum Disorder enjoy the opportunities of everyday life,” said Santabarbara, whose 14-year-old son, Michael, was diagnosed with autism at age 3. “The card will help to easily and efficiently communicate a person’s diagnosis and other critical information to avoid misunderstandings during an emergency or the escalation of routine social interactions into potentially dangerous situations.”

Schenectady Fire Chief Ray Senecal said, “In emergency situations of all types, it is often difficult to obtain proper personal identification, contact information and medical information. Having this information readily available to emergency personnel in written form would be of great benefit in providing the proper care and medical treatment to all, but especially to anyone that may have difficulty communicating or that may be unconscious.”

The bill is part of Santabarbara’s five-piece legislative plan, called Autism Action NY, aimed at increasing job opportunities; providing independent housing options; improving access to information; assisting in communication; and, most importantly, creating a centralized location for services in New York.

The central bill of Autism Action NY passed both houses earlier this week and now awaits the governor’s signature. The bill (A.10558-A, S.8036-A) calls for the creation of an Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board to develop, implement and update a statewide Autism Action Plan, creating a central location for autism services and incorporating new information as it becomes available.

Kate Palmer, president and CEO of GRASP (The Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership, Inc.), said, "The five bills that comprise Autism Action NY are necessary and vital to increasing the quality of life for New Yorkers with Autism and their families and caregivers. With regard to autism I.D. cards, I have supported the idea of having a clear, reliable, and recognizable means of identification for individuals across the lifespan with our members and the community for years. The creation of the state-issued autism I.D. cards would be a life-changing and life-saving opportunity for individuals who encounter first-responders or need assistance in the community. Assemblyman Santabarbara has continued to advocate for individuals with autism and their families with the introduction of Autism Action NY and I fully support his efforts for our community.”