HARLINGEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Drivers with disabilities are addressing the need for better accommodations. Law enforcement officials in the Rio Grande Valley are working to better support those with communication impairments.
Eric Cardenas has been deaf since birth and now works at UTRGV teaching American Sign Language (ASL). He said he has worked to overcome various challenges in his life.
When it came to getting a driver’s license he remembered the need for more accommodations.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to take special education driving classes because I couldn’t afford it and I also didn’t know where they would’ve provided those. I also needed an interpreter a lot of places wouldn’t have even had access to,” said Cardenas.
Cardenas said there needs to be more access and awareness for people with disabilities. He believes there should be a universal symbol on license plates to make it easier when interacting with police.
“Often people assume that I’m not really deaf. Just like if a cop comes up to me and I start gesturing, they’re gonna think I’m faking it. So it would be nice to have different documentation because not all deaf people wear hearing aids, like me, so I don’t have proof on me that I’m deaf,” said Cardenas.
Officer Nicolas Perez of the Pharr Police Department said they have officers that are well versed in ASL, but they also try to better communicate with people of all disabilities.
“Rather you’re dealing with somebody with autism or any kind of disability, I think it’s important that as public servants that we are able to educate ourselves,” said Perez.
Sgt. Maria Montalvo, with the Department of Public Safety, said the agency does have video training for troopers in case they have to assist any drivers with a disability.
“We will see training videos, we’ll see interactions, examples of situations as to how to recognize situations where ‘ok this is a communication impediment’,” said Montalvo.
David Delgado, the founder of the non-profit Autism United, said although law enforcement is getting training, officers need to look for specific signs.
“Individuals who are unaware of a common characteristic or how to deal with them. The fact that some of these are nonverbal so they don’t respond to the commands, that can lead to some pretty bad situations,” said Delgado.