ID Card Released for People Who Stutter After Woman’s ‘Traumatizing’ Airport Incident
A free identification card is now available to all people who stutter.
The card, available to download on The Stuttering Foundation’s website, is designed to help people who stutter identify themselves in tense situations but also educate others in a nonverbal way. This can especially come in handy during stressful and public situations where communication is necessary, like at airport security.
The card was created in response to a recent incident involving Kylie Simmons, a U.S. citizen returning home through an airport in Atlanta after studying abroad. On Thursday Jan. 21, the 20-year-old was going through customs at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport when a customs agent confronted her. When speaking to the agent and asked where she was coming from, Simmons stuttered on the words “Costa Rica.” She was then detained and questioned for an hour or more, causing her to miss her connecting flight and leaving her feeling bullied, discriminated against and traumatized.
After the questioning, Simmons went directly to file a complaint with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol office. A supervisor there issued her a verbal apology, but Simmons has since written a letter asking for a formal apology and that employees at this airport receive further training in how to work with people who stutter. She has yet to hear back.
“I hope that people who stutter use this card to educate others about stuttering awareness,” Simmons told The Mighty via Facebook message. “We all have a voice and we have something to say.”
Many activists came out to support Simmons after she went public about her ordeal, and a hashtag was created called #DDDetainedinAtlanta. People have used it to spread awareness and voice their frustrations, as well as to urge the airport to educate its employees.
I just found so much misinformation that suggests stuttering is a symptom of lying wtaf?! Dark Ages! #DDDetainedInAtlanta
— E. Wislar (@edwislar) January 23, 2016
— Literary Chick (@literary_chick) January 23, 2016
Simmons worked together with the Stuttering Foundation to make the card available to the 70 million people worldwide who stutter so a situation like this can be prevented in the future.
“When questioned by someone in authority, we all may have difficulty maintaining our fluency. For someone who stutters, it can be a much greater challenge. We hope this tool will make a difference,” said Jane Fraser, president of The Stuttering Foundation, said in a press release. “It is designed to help people educate those who are not familiar with this complex disorder.”
— Kylie Simmons (@_Kylie_Simmons) January 25, 2016
“I do not want this to happen to me again,” Simmons wrote in her letter to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, “and not to anyone else with a disability.”
The ID card is available to download here.