May 11, 2009

Assembly Marks Disabilities Awareness Day
With Legislative Package

Comprehensive Measures Would Increase Access to Voting Facilities, Housing and Transportation for People with Disabilities

Speaker Silver, joined by Assemblywoman Michele Titus, addressed the Annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day luncheon in Albany, noting that later in the day the Assembly would take up a package of bills aimed at addressing the many daily challenges the disabled face. Silver and Titus, chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities, also spoke about the Assembly’s commitment to helping disabled New Yorkers as they live, work and contribute to the state.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb announced today the Assembly’s passage of a comprehensive legislative package aimed at ensuring that men, women and children with disabilities receive opportunities for self-empowerment that all New Yorkers expect and deserve. Today’s floor action was part of the Assembly’s annual observance of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.

The Assembly leaders commended Assembly Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Committee Chair Peter Rivera, Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair Michele Titus and Assembly Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Committee Ranking Minority Member Tom McKevitt for their dedication and direction to these very important issues regarding New Yorkers with disabilities.

"Year after year, we work hard to bring forth legislation to ensure fairness, justice, and opportunity for New Yorkers with disabilities," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "On this very important day, the Assembly sought to address day-to-day issues faced by thousands of disabled residents, workers, commuters and consumers of New York State. We have long fought to honor the work of the disability community and it is our hope that this legislative package will continue to assist them as they live, work and contribute to our state."

"Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day provides an opportunity for us, as elected officials, to learn about the emerging issues facing New Yorkers with disabilities and use that knowledge to craft legislation to address them," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua). "It's so important for us to understand the needs of the disabled community so we can provide them with the means to reach their goals. I'm pleased to see the great turnout we've had here today and I'm proud to join my Assembly colleagues in hosting this meaningful occasion."

"It is once again an honor to be co-sponsoring Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day as Chair of the Task Force. This is a very important and productive day because it allows us to unite advocates, service providers, people with disabilities and their families and friends to improve the lives of people living with disabilities all across the state," Titus (D-Queens) said. "As elected officials, our goal is to defend the rights of people with disabilities to ensure they receive fair and equal integration, independence and accessibility, day in and day out."

"The Assembly has a long tradition of providing needed services and support systems to New Yorker's with disabilities," Rivera (D-Bronx) said. "From electoral reform to advocating for equal opportunity, we continuously work to ensure that men, women and children with disabilities receive the same benefits and opportunity that all New Yorkers expect and deserve."

"It's great that we can devote an entire session day to advocate for better legislation for those living with disabilities and at the same time promote their accomplishments," McKevitt (R,C,I-East Meadow) said. "I'm proud that we're focusing on the positive triumphs of people with disabilities and I'm consistently encouraged by the stories I hear of the barriers individuals have overcome on a daily basis."

In order to improve voter access, the Assembly package includes legislation that would require polling locations to comply with the guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act (A.584-A/Cahill). Another bill also includes legislation that would require that Braille ballots be produced for blind or visually impaired voters who request them (A.3738/Koon). The Assembly package also includes legislation that would expand the number of available handicapped accessible polling places by requiring owners of buildings who receive public benefits to make space available (A.5707/Weinstein).

Another measure included in the Assembly package would ensure the safety of people with disabilities living and working in high-rise buildings, by requiring such structures to adopt emergency evacuation plans that specifically pertain to the disability community (A.7852/Titus). Additional legislation would expand housing availability for people with disabilities, ensuring that housing programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance comply with Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (A.7851/Titus).

Other bills included in the Assembly package would:

Silver noted that this year's recipient of the "Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr." Advocacy Award was presented to Harvey Rosenthal, executive director, New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (NYAPRS). Silver also congratulated the many winning artists and all of the children who participated in Assembly Member Michael Cusick's "Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day" poster contest.

(Click here to view Speaker Silver's Remarks)