If you look at the above photo, you might think that the Fairfax County, VA, police had me in custody. I was fortunate to be asked to be a participant in a Practice Traffic Stop, a project to provide an opportunity for people with disabilities to practice interacting with police in a traffic stop. It was a training class to educate police, but it educated me as well. The program is through The ARC of Northern Virginia.
I coasted down a stretch of a high school parking lot, where an officer blasted his siren and flashed his lights in my rearview mirror. The training officer, who sat in the passenger seat to walk me through the training, instructed me to keep my hands on the wheel, after I pulled over and turned the engine off.
Two officers stepped out of the car with flashing lights. A young officer came around to my window. He politely asked me for my identification and registration.
It was emphasized that I listen to the officer’s instructions and not to deviate. The officer told me that he would check for possible violations. I handed over my information, they left and returned with my documents, and nicely set me on my way. After the event was over, the officers graciously took the above photo with me.
Advocacy and Education
Even though I knew that the event was just a training event, there was a slight bit of insecurity and a quiver of questioning that popped up. Why was I spending my morning in a school parking lot with 20 police officers, when I was neglecting my writing and blog? The answer came up easily: advocacy and education.
In the twenty plus years of being an advocate for young onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD), my wife and I used to spend two days in Washington, D.C. and would advocate for a day on Capitol Hill. As state advocates and six years on the now defunct Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) board, along with my wife, Angela, who was honored at the White House as a Champions of Change in Parkinson’s Disease, we have been a dedicated team to trying to educate others on Parkinson’s disease (PD).
I no longer walk the halls of Congress or press the flesh with lawmakers, but for the past 13 years, Angela and I have dedicated ourselves to sharing information on living with Parkinson’s through our articles, videos, books, and audios. It is our goal to help shine light on helping the world to better understand and live better with the illness. We are active on two Parkinson’s charity boards and lecture when we can.
I commend these organizations on focusing on the importance of educating officers on understanding people with disabilities. I hope all first responders will follow suit.
It is our goal to educate and build awareness about shedding light on Parkinson’s disease. Awareness and understanding can improve everyone’s condition.