UNT Student Draws on Personal Experience to Create Special Accommodation Card for Police

A University of North Texas junior is making it her mission to help law enforcement improve relations with people with special needs when an encounter during an already stressful situation could be made worse without understanding.

(Published Friday, Dec. 8, 2017)

A junior at The University of North Texas has teamed up with campus police to create a special card to let law enforcement know whether a person has special needs.

Christianna Walker, a native-Oklahoman who lives on the autism spectrum, moved to Denton to attend college at UNT where she is a Rehabilitation Studies major.

"I'm from a really small town back home," she said. "Everybody just knows me."

But moving to a new city presents challenges. Something she learned first-hand in the spring. Walker said she was the victim of a crime. When police responded, she froze.

A sheriff's deputy in Eureka, California, sees "a different world" after his colleagues and patrol partner of eight years pitched in to purchase enchroma glasses, which allowed him to see color for the first time. Deputy Jeff Dishmon said being colorblind has sometimes been a frustration over the years.

(Published Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018)

"I may not be completely processing what's going on around me," said Walker. "When you have police officers or people around you raising their voices, I'm more likely to just shut down."

Drawing on that incident, Walker approached UNT Campus Police Officer Kevin Crawford to discuss her concerns about the incident, even though it did not happen on the UNT campus or involve his department.

"It can be difficult, because there's a lot of moving pieces when you respond," said Crawford. "Especially if you're already in a situation where tensions are up and things can appear aggressive."

Walker and Crawford came up with the design of a small card a person with special needs can carry which spells out to first responders that the person may need special accomodations, due to autism or some other condition.

The card also includes instructions, and contact information in case of emergency.

"When she was telling me her story, we talked about how helpful it would have been if those officers had known what the situation was," said Crawford.

Police Officer Dustin Miles was told his K-9 partner, Alex, was to be used as a tool and not looked at as a pet. But, once he found out Alex was going to need his leg removed after a severe injury, he took the pup as his own - regardless of any setbacks for him in his career.
 

(Published Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018)

Walker keeps her card with her driver's license. Even something as seemingly minor as a traffic stop can cause issues for her.

"We're not telling officers to sacrifice policies or sacrifice their safety," said Crawford. "We're just giving them a tool to make those informed decisions."

Walker hopes the cards can help prevent an interaction with a police officer from turning into a negative experience.

"I've always been one to, if I find a problem," she explained. "I want to help fix it."