A new bill will attempt to alleviate unnecessary tensions and escalations between the deaf and hard of hearing and law enforcement officers by permitting the international symbol for the deaf and hard of hearing to be printed on driver’s licenses and other IDs.

Dubbed the Deaf Floridians ID Bill, the bill will also put in place a database of those who are deaf and require the Department of Law Enforcement to include information from the forms in the database. It will also require law enforcement agencies to either have at least one on-call officer trained in American Sign Language or to contract with interpreters.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott recently, carried on HB 7061. Its intent will be to hopefully avoid cases in which the deaf or hard of hearing are involved in altercations with law enforcement due to misunderstandings, which can sometimes turn dangerous or even fatal. In one such case in recent years, a man shot by a Volusia County deputy was revealed to be deaf later.

Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat who originally introduced the language in another proposal, touted the bill as a way to make interactions between the deaf or hard of hearing and law enforcement go smoother.

“In the event of a stop or arrest, it is critical to both deaf citizens and law enforcement that their unique abilities are clearly known to safeguard public safety and constitutional rights,” Soto said in a press release.

Rep. Victor Torres, a fellow Orlando Democrat, co-sponsored Soto’s measure in the House. He believes the bill will “fulfill a need for many deaf constituents in the state of Florida.”

“I feel that this will enhance the quality of life for those that are affected by loss of hearing or are hard of hearing,” Torres says in a news release. “Having the international symbol for the deaf on their ID or license will facilitate communications between constituents and law enforcement here in Florida and also around the world.”

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