"The Assembly recognizes that New Yorkers with disabilities face a unique set of challenges and that thoughtful legislative policy is critical to their ability to thrive," said Speaker Heastie. "Each year, my colleagues and I shine a spotlight on these issues and pass legislation we believe helps reach that goal."
Assembly Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb said, "It is an honor to join my Assembly colleagues to pay tribute to the accomplishments of the dedicated advocates and individuals with disabilities from across New York. The Assembly Minority Conference has long-valued working alongside individuals, their families and caregivers as an opportunity to learn about the issues and best formulate solutions to solve the problems facing the disability community. We voiced concerns and fought back harmful cuts to critical programs and services, and helped provide a competitive wage for direct care workers. Our fight will continue as we empower every New Yorker to follow their dreams and achieve their aspirations."
Today's legislative package includes a critical measure that would reestablish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.10706, Skoufis). The office would function as an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities to ensure that they are afforded the opportunity to exercise all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to all citizens of the state of New York, including the opportunity to live an independent life in their local communities. The office was initially established in 1983, however, most of the disability advocacy functions that existed in state government within the original Office of the Advocate have disappeared throughout the years.
The package also includes a bill that would waive the state's sovereign immunity with regard to the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 as they apply to the protection of state employees (A.2546, Lifton). It also restores the right of state employees to sue the state for damages due to violations of these federal laws.
Another measure would clarify that reasonable accommodation to enable a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling includes the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A.7283, Dilan).
"People with disabilities in New York State deserve statewide representation that they can count on to advocate for their rights," said Assemblymember James Skoufis, chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities. "I'm proud that our legislative package includes reestablishing the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities, as well as a comprehensive list of legislation that will help New Yorkers with disabilities lead healthy and fulfilling lives."
"Each year, Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day allows us the opportunity to find new ways to empower New Yorkers with disabilities so that they are able to fully engage in their communities," said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, chair of the Committee on Mental Health. "It's also an important time to recognize the hard work and dedication of those who support individuals with disabilities, including loved ones, care providers and advocates."
"As someone who has advocated for individuals with disabilities for pretty much my entire adult life, I am so honored to be a part of the New York State Assembly Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day," said Assemblymember Melissa Miller, ranking minority member of the Committee on Mental Health. "My first-born child and my youngest child both have special needs and I had to learn how to navigate through a lot of different systems to make sure that their basic needs were being met. It was scary and difficult. But I learned. It was exactly my passion and determination to fight for the rights of individuals with disabilities and improve programs and access throughout the state that first inspired me to run for a seat in the Assembly. I am so happy to be able to help spread awareness across New York and bring positive change."
Two additional measures passed today would help ensure safe evacuations for people with disabilities during emergency situations, including legislation that would:
Many New Yorkers rely on highly specialized medical equipment to maintain their quality of life, mobility and independence. Today, the Assembly passed legislation that would require the Commissioner of Health to maintain specific reimbursement and billing procedures within Medicaid for these complex rehabilitation products and services to ensure that payments for such products and services permit adequate access to complex needs patients and takes into account the significant resources, infrastructure and staff needed to meet their needs (A.10604, McDonald).
In the event that an individual applying for public assistance receives a diagnosis from a practitioner provided by the local social services district regarding possible work limitations that differs from the applicant's practitioner, another bill passed by the Assembly today would require that the social services appointed practitioner provide an explicit written determination and present evidence supporting his or her diagnosis (A.3045, Hevesi).
Today's legislative package also includes measures that would extend tax credits to small businesses and owners of residential buildings, including legislation that would:
Many veterans return home from active military duty with service-related disabilities. One bill passed today would establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled veterans to identify the needs and services that service-disabled veterans require and a more efficient matching of these needs to state resources (A.5931-A, Ramos).