I started Assistees after hearing stories, like Freddie Gray. He was a 19-year-old Baltimorean teenager who was stopped by police officers for questioning. Unaware that he was on the spectrum, the officers began beating the young man for not following orders. It wasn’t until after his death that they realized he was autistic.

I started designing t-shirts and pins to prevent situations like Freddie’s from reoccurring. Simple indicators that helped foster an environment of awareness and acceptance. Although, I started hearing other terrible stories, like Robert Kim.

Kim was a young man who pulled his car over to fix a flat tire. Then, he began enduring a diabetic episode. A police officer arrived to check out the scene. Kim attempted to explain that he was deaf and diabetic. Although, the officer misinterpreted his cues as being uncooperative - and started beating and tasering Kim for failing to respond to orders.

Stories like this happen every single day - People finding deaf people suspicious. People misunderstanding ASL as threatening gestures. And deaf people enduring discrimination simply because of their condition. These problems are fatal flaws in today’s society. Although, Robert H. Schuller once said, “Problems are not stop signs - they are guidelines.”

I believe these problems are opportunities to build a welcoming society for the deaf community. If we can inform people of deafness, we can foster a world of acceptance. This is why Assistees has started designing t-shirts that incorporate ASL.

Simple touches like swapping letters for hand symbols can invoke the beauty of American Sign Language - and inform onlookers of the wearer’s condition. When people see the design, they’ll associate the Language with the wearer and be better able to assist the person.

Of course, this is only a small step toward building a stronger environment, which is why we advocate police departments in improving their training programs for the deaf community.

As for now - and what we do best - we make Tees that Assist. And we hope you enjoy wearing them.

For more information, please review our selection here.