McCabe drafts bill to help first responders in emergencies involving individuals with autism, other disabilities

Travis, a nonverbal child with autism, is one of many examples of the need for more education on how to communicate with people with disabilities. On the mailbox outside their Wapato home, Travis’ parents have painted a blue puzzle piece meant to alert first responders in an emergency that there may be a person with disabilities present. But that puzzle piece —  or any other alert system — is unrecognizable to some, and Travis’ parents would like to see that change.

After being contacted by his parents and others, Rep. Gina McCabe, R-Goldendale, hosted a meeting Tuesday in Olympia between parents, first responders, police and others to discuss legislation she drafted to address this issue.

“We originally drafted this legislation with autistic children and adults in mind, but after receiving hundreds of emails from members of our disabled communities throughout the state, I wanted to make sure all people with disabilities would be covered under this bill,” said McCabe.

The bill, the Travis Alert bill, would create a system for a colored, reflective puzzle-piece decal that could be placed in a vehicle or on the main entrance of a residence to indicate a person with disabilities could be present. It would also create an enhanced 911 program for parents to optionally submit information pertaining to their child(s) disability so first responders would know how to best address the emergency situation. The emergency notification system would be coupled with increased education and training requirements for first responders on how to approach individuals with disabilities in times of crisis.

“Autism and other disabilities affect so many in our communities, and it’s important we continue discussions on how we can better serve this vulnerable population,” said McCabe. “My bill will provide critical education and training to our first responders, and ensure our disabled community members are well cared for in emergencies.”

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 children are diagnosed with autism. And in 2012, 24.7 percent of Washington adults reported having a disability, compared to the national average of 21.4 percent.

McCabe has requested anyone with questions or those wishing to be involved in the discussions to contact her legislative office at (360) 786-7856 or send an email to

PHOTO CAPTION: Rep. Gina McCabe hosts a meeting on Tuesday, June 16, in Olympia between parents, first responders, police officers and others to address disability awareness during emergencies.



Washington State House Republican Communications