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Police plan Project Blue Able to help people with disabilities

Blue Able social

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - Iowa City Police are working with a local independent living center on a pilot program to help people with disabilities like autism make more connections in their community.

Project Blue Able was inspired by a Connecticut program where drivers on the autism spectrum, or with hearing or vision impairments, carry blue or green envelopes to hand officers during a traffic stop. The envelopes contain information on their condition and contact info for care providers.

"Traffic stops are one encounter that law enforcement have with citizens but we deal with people on all different spectrums and in all different situations," Travis Neeld said, ICPD's community relations officer since January.

Neeld says they're still in the planning phase of the program but hope to grow it outside of traffic stops to trainings and how police operate on a daily basis.

"Personally, I feel like this is an opportunity for law enforcement to work with a group of people who may or may not have been included in conversations," Neeld said.

Access 2 Independence is partnering with ICPD on the program and says those with disabilities may struggle communicating with police.

"We learn interactions with law enforcement and how to come to an officer with a problem. And I think people who experience disability barriers --sometimes communication can get broken," Executive Director Sara Martinez said.

Access 2 Independence and ICPD are hosting two public input sessions for people with disabilities to bring their ideas to the table. They are Thursday Feb. 27 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Mercer Park Aquatic Center, and Wednesday March 4 at the Iowa City Public Library, also from 3 to 5 p.m.

Organizers will also be publishing a survey for people to take about how to shape the program.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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