The Politics of Autism discusses the problem of wandering, which has been the topic of legislation before Congress.
A version of Kevin and Avonte’s Law passed the Senate in July, incorporating carefully crafted language developed by the bill’s primary sponsor, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), designed to address or at least mitigate concerns from self-advocates. The Senate language restricted the acceptable scope of tracking device use to cases that would reduce the risk of injury or death to the person tracked. It also provided funding for safety issues other than tracking devices, like training first responders and educators on the needs of people with disabilities, and training law enforcement to help them spot signs of abuse.
Unfortunately, when the House passed the legislation on December 8, several modifications were made, including allowing the use of tracking devices for purposes other than locating missing persons — tracking people to prevent them from harming others, for instance. The House also wanted to pay for the program by defunding an important community-policing grants program not directly related to disability. This caused my organization, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, previously neutral on the legislation, to switch to active opposition — and also inspired several other major disability groups to pull their support.
Competing call-in campaigns to the Senate ensued through late last Friday, with proponents calling for a floor vote before the Senate adjourned for the session and critics urged Senator Schumer to reject the House changes. In the end, no vote on the bill took place, so proponents must start the process again in the new Congress.