Rep. Gina McCabe takes the Travis Alert Act before the Judiciary Committee
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Dozens of people traveled by bus from Yakima to Olympia Wednesday and crowded into a Judiciary Committee hearing room. Their goal: to ensure that a piece of legislation designed to protect the disabled moves through into law. Ruth Johnson reports from Olympia.
Johnson: The measure is called the Travis Alert Act.
McCabe: “It helps first responders in an emergency situation know that a person they are responding to has a special need.”
Johnson: Republican Representative Gina McCabe of Goldendale. She's sponsoring the bill. It was inspired by 11 year old Travis King who has autism, who if you listen closely you can hear his testimony before the committee…
Travis King: “You can help save my life and other people who are like me.”
Johnson: The bill would create a system to allow for the creation of a decal that families of the disabled could display so police, fire, and EMTs know immediately what they may be facing when they respond to a call.
Johnson: Testifying was Dakota Bower. She's in the 6th grade.
Dakota Bower, 6th grade: “I ask my Dad, Dad, do you know what to do when you get someone like Travis? He's like, yes, but other firefighters don't know, other EMTs don't know.”
Johnson: Her father Brian is a firefighter in Yakima. To illustrate the need for McCabe's bill, he told lawmakers about a recent emergency call…
Brian Bower; Firefighter: “This young man came out of his back bedroom, just freaking out, but not saying anything, just flailing his arms and doing everything else. The cop immediately became defensive on it. But, the kid was deaf.”
Johnson: Gina McCabe's bill calls for increased education, and training requirements for first responders on how to approach people with disabilities in times of crisis.
McCabe: “We're trying to save lives with this bill.”
Johnson: There are those concerned that a decal could attract unwanted attention and put the vulnerable at risk. Others say that it could stigmatize the disabled. The State Patrol and the Washington Emergency Management System testified they would like to work with McCabe on the measure ensure the disabled get the support they need.
Johnson: And Lawmaker McCabe was surrounded by support. Families of the those on the autism spectrum, downs syndrome and chromosomal abnormalities.
Tyler King, brother of Travis: “One in every 52 people are born with autism. This bill could help save every one of them in case of a disaster.”
Johnson: And Dakota:
Dakota Bower, 6th grade: “I just sometimes think what would I do if I couldn't talk, if I couldn't process the thinking, or if I couldn't understand the first responders. I sometimes ask myself that.”
Johnson: It's a question Republican Gina McCabe also thinks about, as she presses forward for support for her legislation.
Ruth Johnson in Olympia.
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