May 16, 2011

Assembly Approves Legislation to Protect New Yorkers
With Disabilities from Discrimination as Part of
Its Annual Observance of Disabilities Awareness Day

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, along with Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair Michael J. Cusick, Mental Health Committtee Chair Felix Ortiz and Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Mental Health Steve Katz, today announced the passage of a legislative package to prevent the use of discriminatory practices against New Yorkers with disabilities.

"The Assembly's annual observance of Disabilities Awareness Day not only recognizes the accomplishments and contributions of people with disabilities and New York's disability advocates, but it also zeros in on some of the challenges they face. I'm pleased to say that the legislation we approved today includes anti-discrimination measures for the protection of people with disabilities that will ensure their most basic rights in the areas of housing, emergency preparedness, transportation and the election process," said Silver (D-Manhattan).

"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," said Cusick (D-Staten Island). "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."

To better protect individuals with disabilities from discriminatory practices, the Assembly approved a measure that would make the state's Human Rights Law consistent with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and clarify the obligations of state and local governments to ensure that the services, activities and programs they administer do not prevent the participation of people with disabilities (A.71/Paulin).

Among the Assembly's anti-discriminatory initiatives is a bill that would restore the right of state employees to sue the state for damages due to violations of the ADA, the Age Discrimination Employment Act (ADEA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (A.3689 /Lifton). The bill also would preserve their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The Disabilities Awareness Day legislative package also included bills that would:

"Today's celebration is a great opportunity to honor champions who inspire us all," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb (R,I,C-Canandaigua). "Anything is possible through hard work and determination. These everyday heroes have proven just that by overcoming obstacles to live full, productive and rewarding lives."

"Disabilities Awareness Day provides all legislators in the state Capitol with the opportunity to educate themselves on the issues that matter to people with disabilities in New York. As Chair of the Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Committee, I commend those who are self-advocates, family members who tirelessly support their loved ones and the legislative sponsors for supporting this important day," said Ortiz (D-Brooklyn).

"It is a great privilege to take part in my first Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day as Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly Mental Health Committee," said Assemblyman Steve Katz (R, I-Yorktown). "The entire program today, in conjunction with our passage of key disability advocate legislation, will raise awareness for those who overcome their disabilities to excel in their daily lives and in their communities."

The discrimination experienced by people with disabilities in matters involving housing and transportation also was addressed with measures that would:

In addition, Assembly Resolutions also were acted on to mark the house's more than two decades of observing Disabilities Awareness Day (K.502) and honoring the recipient of the Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr., Award, which recognizes commitment to disability issues (K.509).

Legislation to crack down on the discriminatory practices that deny people with disabilities affordable and safe housing is also expected to be acted on by the Assembly later in the session. The bill would make discrimination by landlords based on a tenant's source of income illegal under the New York State Human Rights Law (A.1121-B/Bing).