House passes O’Mara bill to increase access to photo identification for people living with disabilities

HARRISBURG, Sept. 27 — State Rep. Jennifer O’Mara’s legislation to strengthen accessibility to photo ID cards and driver’s licenses passed the House today, a win for Pennsylvanians with severe lifelong medical conditions, such as blindness, and disabled veterans.

House Bill 1291 would allow individuals with certain conditions to request PennDOT to issue a renewal of an identification card or driver’s license using the most recent color photo and signature of the applicant on file. Residents who meet the criteria for a severely disabled veteran placard/plate would also qualify for remote renewal. O’Mara said renewing the ID online from home would replace an in-person visit to the DMV, increasing the convenience of having an ID for those living with mobility issues.

“People living with conditions such as blindness, limb loss, and extreme heart conditions cannot legally drive. Yet, they still need a form of photo ID to carry out essential functions of their life,” O’Mara said. “My bill would allow those living with persistent, specific health conditions to renew their license/ID from home. Everyone deserves access to a state-issued ID, and this legislation will help ensure that.”

O’Mara’s inspiration for this bill came from the renewal process during the COVID-19 pandemic, as this was how all Pennsylvanians renewed their IDs at that time. This, unexpectedly, was a huge help to those living with disabilities, who face extra hurdles to get to the DMV, she said. Waiting in a crowded area with a wheelchair or oxygen tank, for example, can be particularly challenging when simply looking to get a photo taken. 

This legislation would only apply to renewing IDs/licenses from home. Other requirements for first-time applicants would still apply.

H.B. 1291 will now advance to the Senate for consideration.