People with autism in Nebraska could receive handicap parking permits under a new state law. According to a report this month by Journal Star.com, the bill is the result of advocacy by Cris Petersen, a Nebraska mother whose five-year-old son Max has autism.
A year ago, Petersen became an ambassador for Autism Speaks, and promotes autism awareness through her website, Sassymamaforautism.com. The idea for a bill providing handicap parking permits for people with autism came to Petersen after she discovered a Virginia law offering just that. Petersen contacted Lincoln Senator Kate Bolz, who agreed to offer a bill that would insert the word “neurological” into the definition of impairments that qualify for a handicap parking permit. The ability to qualify for a permit could have a positive impact on as many as 40,000 Nebraska families whose loved ones are affected by neurological or developmental disabilities.
“I’m fighting this fight because it’s the right thing to do, for all the families who don’t know that they can advocate for themselves or are just too exhausted to do it,” Peterson was quoted as saying by Journal Star.
In order to qualify for a handicap permit, individuals must meet two qualifications, one state, and the other federal. The federal rule includes challenges in walking 200 feet or more, or having a neurological disorder that creates a mobility impairment. The state statute requires that the individual have a visual or physical impairment.
Bolz noted that the latter might “not look like someone who used a wheelchair or who has lost an appendage, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not at risk of running in a parking lot or having a sensory overload that endangers them in traffic or, in the case of someone who has (Alzheimer’s) or dementia, just walks off.”
The bill has been sent to the Urban Affairs Committee, though a hearing has not yet been scheduled.