May 17, 2010

Assembly Passes Legislation In Honor Of Disabilities Awareness Day

Eighteen-Bill Package Includes Measures to Bring New York State Law into Congruence with the ADA, Make Polling Places More Accessible and Institute Anti-Discrimination Measures

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (center) and Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair Michael Cusick (right) joined colleagues for the Assembly's annual Disabilities Awareness Day, an event focused on legislation aimed at ensuring that disabled New Yorkers live full and productive lives. In his remarks to advocates for the disabled, Silver praised the bipartisan effort in the Assembly to recognize that "equal access and treatment for all individuals is the cornerstone of our government."

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb announced today that the Assembly passed a comprehensive package of legislation in order to empower individuals with disabilities by providing greater protection and accessibility under New York State law. The measures were taken up in honor of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.

Silver and Kolb applauded Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair Michael Cusick, Mental Health Committee Chair Felix Ortiz and Mental Health Committee Ranking Minority Member Tom McKevitt for their unwavering dedication to improving conditions for men, women and children with disabilities.

"Legislation passed today not only raises awareness to the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities, but will also provide greater protection for this community in so many areas," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "I have had the privilege of meeting a number of individuals, from organizations across the state, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the concerns of people with disabilities are being met. I applaud my colleagues in the Assembly-on both sides of the aisle-for recognizing that equal access and treatment for all individuals is the cornerstone of our government."

"It is an honor to again sponsor Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua). "The men and women we are honoring today are an inspiration to us all, because they know that anything is possible with hard work and determination. I am active in the Special Olympics program in my community and was proud to co-host Special Olympics New York's 40th anniversary ceremony here in March. Programs like the Special Olympics have empowered thousands of young adults who face disabilities. The athletes and the New Yorkers joining us today are proof that having a disability does not hinder one's ambition or their ability to live a full, productive and rewarding life."

"I am extremely honored to be sponsoring Disabilities Awareness Day in my new capacity as Chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities," said Cusick (D-Staten Island). "This event is significant to the state Assembly because not only do we bring together so many advocates and people with disabilities to concentrate on the priorities of New York's disability community, but while this distinguished group is in Albany, we advance a comprehensive legislative agenda that truly reflects their needs and concerns that have been brought to our attention. And while it is very helpful for us to bring this large group together on this special occasion once a year, it is critical that we continue our mission to seek independence, integration and inclusion of all people with disabilities throughout the entire year."

"All New Yorkers should be provided equal protection under the law," said Ortiz (D-Brooklyn). "This legislative package will help to ensure that individuals with disabilities are afforded the same rights as their fellow constituents. I am honored to be a part of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, and I commend everyone who attended today's event to ensure that their voices are heard."

"The annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day ceremony provides a necessary opportunity for us to raise awareness of the needs of individuals with disabilities and also recognize their fantastic accomplishments," said McKevitt (R,C,I-East Meadow). "I am continually amazed by their determination and their power to turn a disability into an achievement. We have again heard many of these success stories here today."

To protect the rights of people with disabilities, legislation passed in the Assembly today would waive the state's sovereign immunity to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and certain other federal acts (A.3651/Lifton). Additional legislation would clarify the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in services provided by public entities in New York State by making the State Human Rights Law consistent with the ADA (A.10676/Paulin). Another measure would add "disability" to areas of the State Human Rights Law where it has been omitted (A.10771/Cusick).

Legislation approved will ensure that housing protections offered to people with disabilities under the Federal Rehabilitation Act are enforceable on the state and local level as well (A.9757/Bing). Another measure passed by the Assembly would prevent housing discrimination based upon an individual's income source and make discrimination by landlords based on a tenant's source of income illegal under the New York State Human Rights Law (A.10689-A/Bing).

Recognizing the importance of making our voting system more accessible, the Assembly approved measures which would:

Additionally, new legislation the Assembly passed today would designate October 18 as Disabilities History Day (A.10853-A/Schroeder). Legislation was also approved to expand the membership of the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council to include the Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council and the commissioners of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and the Department of Labor, as well as three current or former recipients of public services to people with disabilities (A.8699-A/Destito).

Other measures passed by the Assembly relating to disability rights include proposals which would:

In order to protect people with disabilities in the event of emergency situations, the Assembly passed legislation that would require counties to maintain a registry of people with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster (A.520/Destito) and mandate that high-rise building owners establish emergency evacuation plans for occupants and visitors with disabilities (A.10841/Cusick).

Finally, to improve conditions for individuals parking in handicapped accessible parking spaces, the Assembly approved a measure requiring additional signage to further deter drivers from illegally parking in access aisles (A.7848/Latimer). Also included in today's package is legislation requiring that access aisles of handicapped accessible parking spaces be at least eight feet wide (A.7849/Lavine).