The New York State Assembly
Speaker Sheldon Silver
Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair
Assemblymember Peter M. Rivera, Chair
The New York State Assembly
Schedule of Events
8:30 am – 9:30 am — Continental Breakfast — Well of LOB
9:30 am — Opening Ceremony — Well of LOB
Presentation of “Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr.” Advocacy Award to:
9:30 am – 2:00 pm — Art Exhibit
9:30 am – 2:00 pm — Exhibitor Fair
To Be Announced — Assembly Session — Assembly Chamber, Capitol
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm — Luncheon — Well of LOB
1:00 pm – 2:45 pm — Seminars — Hearing Rooms B and C of LOB
Wednesday, May 17, 2005
2005 Disabilities Awareness Day
Legislative Package Summary
*subject to change
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law and the education law, in relation to making ballots available in Braille and large-print.
PURPOSE: To allow blind and visually impaired individuals access to ballots printed in Braille and large-print.
JUSTIFICATION: It is important that people who are blind or visually impaired have equal access to ballots in the voting process. While it is not the intent of this measure to replace the critical need for fully accessible voting machines for all people with disabilities, there are some individuals who either need or wish to vote by absentee ballot.
This act will enable blind and visually impaired persons to request Braille or large-print absentee ballots to be sent to their homes, or such persons can request that accessible ballots be available at their polling places. Currently, blind or visually impaired people must have someone assist them when filling out absentee ballots because they are simply not produced in accessible formats. This situation eliminates the rights of blind or visually impaired people to vote independently, and it forces such individuals to trust that the person assisting them will vote according to their wishes.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the civil rights law, in relation to waiving the state’s sovereign immunity to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
PURPOSE: This bill waives the state’s sovereign immunity with regard to application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as it applies to the protection of state employees.
JUSTIFICATION: On February 22, 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled in Board of Trustees v. Garrett that in the enactment of the ADA, US Congress has exceeded its power to authorize lawsuits by residents against their own states under the 11th Amendment. However, the ruling allows states to opt to hold themselves to the standards that were originally set out by the ADA, prior to that decision by waiving their sovereign immunity and thereby permitting actions in state courts. This ruling effectively took away the protection for state workers under the ADA while upholding the same protection for privately employed individuals, creating a disparity. This bill will ensure that all employees, including those employed by the state, have the same protections under the ADA as they have had since 1990.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to off street parking for the handicapped at retail stores.
PURPOSE: To provide convenient handicapped parking at shopping facilities.
JUSTIFICATION: Chapter 203 of the Laws of 1981 mandated that shopping centers and facilities with at least five retail stores and twenty off-street parking spaces provide designated handicapped parking spaces for their customers with disabilities.
While this measure was a major step forward in recognizing the right of drivers with disabilities in New York State to be accommodated with convenient access to retail stores, it’s become clear that there are still many small shopping centers which aren’t covered by this law and which can’t be legally required to provide handicapped parking spaces.
This bill would help correct this problem by requiring that all shopping centers and facilities with at least three stores and twenty off-street parking spaces provide designated handicapped parking spaces. The number of stores would then be reduced to one within a two-year period, allowing significantly more handicapped parking spaces to be gradually phased in.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law, in relation to clarifying the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the area of government services.
PURPOSE: To clarify the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York State Human Rights Law in the area of government services to be consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the Division of Human Rights.
JUSTIFICATION: Beginning with the adoption of Chapter 988 of the laws of 1974, true nondiscrimination requires more than merely refraining from offensive conduct. In some instances, there are certain modest actions which must be undertaken to assure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in certain programs, services and activities.
Title II of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, which are defined to include the same entities as covered by this proposal, plus certain transportation providers already covered under other sections of current state law. For nearly twenty years, similar requirements have been applied to any entity, including state and local government, which receives federal funds pursuant to the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Given the scope of the 1973 mandate and the extent to which state and local government continue to receive federal funds, the additional impact of this requirement should be minimal. Although Section 296 of the Executive Law already prohibits such discrimination by public entities as employers and operators of public facilities, this measure will clarify two key obligations of governmental entities providing benefits, programs or services.
First, it will be clear that prohibitions against discrimination extend beyond employment and use of facilities to services, programs and activities. This distinction becomes critical in the case of individuals who may be afforded full access to a facility but are denied the opportunity to participate in a program offered in that facility because of their disability. Second, the amendment will be consistent with comparable federal requirements and will clarify the obligation of the public entity to take reasonable actions to assure that the rules, policies or practices by which services, programs or activities are administered and that the existence of architectural, communication or transportation barriers or the absence of auxiliary aids and services do not prevent the participation of eligible people with disabilities in public entity services, programs and activities.
Given the minimal resources which the federal government is expected to devote to ADA enforcement, the availability of state enforcement mechanisms through the Human Rights Law is essential to assure adequate protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the delivery of services by public entities.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law, in relation to clarifying the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the area of public accommodations.
PURPOSE: To clarify the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York State Human Rights Law in the area of public accommodations to be consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the Division of Human Rights.
JUSTIFICATION: Beginning with the adoption of Chapter 988 of the laws of 1974, true nondiscrimination requires more than merely refraining from offensive conduct. In some instances, there are certain modest actions which must be undertaken to assure that people with disabilities have an equal opportunity to participate in certain programs, services and activities. While the federal mandates were initially limited in scope to recipients of federal funds, the ADA has extended such requirements to a broad range of facilities and services which are private in nature but open to the public ("public accommodations"). In so doing, Congress has required operators of places of public accommodation (Title III of ADA) to refrain not only from discriminatory actions, but also to undertake reasonable modifications in policies, procedures or practices, provide auxiliary aids and services, and remove certain architectural, communication and transportation barriers which prevent people with disabilities from utilizing public accommodations on an equitable basis, where such removal is "readily achievable."
Such requirements are consistent with the long standing policies of the New York State Division of Human Rights which have been upheld by state courts. While the Human Rights Law does not, for example, currently explicitly mandate the removal of architectural barriers, the Appellate Division has upheld the authority of the Commissioner of Human Rights to order the operator of an inaccessible facility to maintain a ramp and not merely refrain from engaging in discriminatory behavior. STATE DIVISION OF HUMAN RIGHTS V. CROSS AND BROWN, 83 A.D.2d 993, 443 N.Y.S.2d 671 (1st Dept. 1981) (affirming without opinion an order of the State Human Rights Commission)
Given the minimal resources which the federal government is expected to devote to ADA enforcement, the availability of state enforcement mechanisms through the Human Rights Law is essential to assure adequate protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the area of public accommodations.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to providing that access aisles of handicapped accessible parking spaces have to be at least eight feet wide.
PURPOSE: To ensure that access aisles of handicapped parking spaces are wide enough for people with disabilities to enter and exit their vehicles.
JUSTIFICATION: Access aisles that lie adjacent to handicapped accessible parking spaces are there for the purpose of allowing disabled persons, many times wheelchair users, to get into and out of their vehicles. Often times, these vehicles have ramps or lifts that extend quite a ways out the side door of the vehicle.
Eight feet is just enough space to allow wheelchair users to open the side door of their vehicles, extend the lift or ramp, and still have enough room to get off of the lift platform or ramp and turn. Any less amount of space than eight feet in width might not allow wheelchair users to maneuver between their vehicle and the vehicle parked next to theirs.
This bill is intended to reaffirm and place in state statute the current size requirements of access aisles listed under the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. It is important to protect the eight-foot width obligation in state law because building code requirements change periodically, and current Americans with Disabilities Act requirements call for a majority of access aisles to be only five feet wide.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to requiring access aisles of handicapped parking spaces to be marked with "No Parking Anytime" signs.
PURPOSE: To prevent people from parking in the access aisles of handicapped parking spaces by further identifying access aisles with signs that are distinctly different from the signs that are currently required to be posted to identify handicapped accessible parking spaces.
JUSTIFICATION: Currently, many drivers, both disabled and able-bodied, use the access aisles that lie adjacent to handicapped accessible parking spaces as additional parking spaces. Often times these access aisles have no signage designating them as a no parking zone, and when disabled drivers who have properly parked in a handicapped parking space return to their vehicles, they find that they cannot get into their vehicle because someone has blocked the entrance by parking in the access aisle.
Adding signage that clearly identifies the access aisles will deter drivers who do not realize what these spaces are reserved for. In addition, it will provide for an enforcement mechanism for those who choose to park in the newly designated "No Parking Anytime" zones.
We need to ensure that people with disabilities who need to utilize the access aisles are not left unable to get into their vehicles because someone has carelessly parked in the area reserved for entering and exiting a car or van.
This bill is intended to reaffirm and place in state statute the current requirements for signage of access aisles listed under the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code. It is important to protect the signage obligation in state law because building code requirements change periodically. The requirements for this signage mirror those existing for handicapped parking spaces under the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to polling places being situated on a public transportation route.
PURPOSE: To ensure, whenever feasible, that polling places be designated on a line of public transportation to enable individuals, particularly those with physical disabilities who do not have their own transportation to get to and from their polling places.
JUSTIFICATION: The intent of this measure is to increase voter participation for those individuals without their own transportation, particularly for individuals who do not have transportation to vote or need parking currently not available at existing polling sites. The populations that would most benefit from this requirement include people with physical disabilities, senior citizens and low-income individuals. This initiative is one way that New York State can ensure that every person who desires to vote is indeed able to do so.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public housing law, in relation to requiring any program or activity relating to housing which receives federal financial assistance to comply with the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
PURPOSE: To ensure that housing protections offered to people with disabilities under Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act are also offered, and therefore enforceable, on the state level as well.
JUSTIFICATION: New York’s disability advocates have identified a lack of enforcement of Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act in New York State. Specifically, advocates have noted that some single and multi-family projects that have received federal monies through the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR), local participating jurisdictions and the Housing Finance Agency (HFA) are not in compliance with Section 504. Even in circumstances where these federally-funded projects have been in architectural compliance, developers who have accepted federal funds have not marketed the accessible units to eligible individuals with disabilities.
Some funding agencies have asserted that compliance with the state building code is sufficient to demonstrate compliance with Section 504. However, because these codes provide architectural standards and do not contain the set aside and marketing requirements of Section 504, adherence to these codes does not equate to compliance with the regulatory provisions of Section 504. Legislation to incorporate Section 504 into state law would greatly assist in the enforcement of these provisions in New York State. The incorporation of Section 504 and the clarification of enforcement responsibility in state law would assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining accessible housing by ensuring that accessible units are built and are occupied by those who need them.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public housing law, in relation to establishing a centralized statewide registry of accessible or adaptable housing for people with disabilities to be known as "Access-New York."
PURPOSE: To enact a New York State housing registry containing up-to-date information regarding accessible housing statewide for people with disabilities.
JUSTIFICATION: In recent years, a social demand has called upon legislators to help relieve the burdens of finding accessible housing for people with disabilities. Locating housing that meets the needs of people with disabilities is a challenging task because many people with disabilities face a twofold problem. Many live on a fixed income, and cannot afford the high cost of housing, so they are very limited to the few units that are both inexpensive and accessible.
A statewide accessible housing registry in New York State would help correct the issue of locating suitable housing for people with disabilities. The registry would allow for people with disabilities to search for housing that suits their accessibility needs and income levels. It should be noted that, while mandatory, this program entails no enforcement mechanism that would be imposed on covered owners for non-compliance. The housing registry will provide free advertising and marketing to covered owners and allow them to maximize their units for rent or sale with notoriously long-term tenants.
This registry would be able to be accessed through both a website and a toll-free number. This bill calls for owners and operators to submit information regarding all housing that is accessible or adaptable to the Access-New York housing registry.
Information that must be submitted includes, but is not limited to, the following: location, rent levels or purchase price, projects receiving local, state or federal government assistance, whether or not the covered owner accepts subsidies such as Section 8, public assistance and/or local or municipal housing subsidies, the number of bedrooms, development amenities, neighborhood features, including whether or not such unit is on a line of public transportation, year of construction, particular accessible or adaptable features to assist persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired, other particular accessible or adaptable features, vacancy status, waiting list status, contact information, including covered owner’s name, mailing address, phone number, fax number, e-mail address, website and TTY phone number and any occupancy restrictions that apply to the unit.
This measure requires tenants who plan to vacate a unit to notify the owner or operator and Access-New York at least thirty days in advance, who in turn must again notify the registry once the unit has become vacant within three business days. Additionally, this measure requires the Commissioner of DHCR and the Secretary of State to market Access-New York to relevant organizations.
This bill also establishes a special advisory panel to assist DHCR in the facilitation of the development and management of Access-New York. This advisory panel will issue an annual report to the Legislature on the progress of Access-New York.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the real property tax law, in relation to exemptions on real property owned by persons with disabilities.
PURPOSE: The purpose of this bill is to provide relief from the burden of increasing real property taxes for persons with disabilities on limited incomes.
JUSTIFICATION: This proposal would greatly assist disabled New Yorkers with limited incomes confronted with the financial strain placed upon them by increasing real property tax rates. For many of these persons, especially those on fixed incomes, this burden is overwhelming. This bill would grant local governments the option to raise the income eligibility limit to qualify for the disabled real property tax exemption from the current $24,000 to $29,000 over a four year period.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the education law, in relation to creating the state Interagency Council for Services to Persons who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or Hard of Hearing to promote a comprehensive service system for the deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing population.
PURPOSE: Services for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing persons are provided by many agencies of the state government and through funding from these agencies, by many private agencies and providers. This bill would establish an Interagency Council for Services to Persons Who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or Hard of Hearing under the administrative lead of the Education Department. The Council would coordinate the collection of information on population needs, engage in comprehensive strategic planning and prepare legislative and policy recommendations to the Governor, the Legislature and the Board of Regents.
JUSTIFICATION: This bill would significantly improve the delivery of services to individuals who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing. It would provide a discussion focus on the delivery of comprehensive services for medical, housing, transportation, technology supports, personal care, family supports and day programs for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing. Interagency discussion would result in an identification of the needs of the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing communities and a more efficient matching of these needs to state resources. The establishment of a Council that includes persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing will do much to ensure that services for this population are responsive to the special needs of these groups.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the public health law, in relation to authorizing the health department to develop regulations pertaining to hard of hearing hospital patients and others.
PURPOSE: To authorize the Department of Health (DOH) to develop regulations pertaining to deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing hospital patients, or patients of minor age whose parents or guardians are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing.
JUSTIFICATION: People who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind encounter barriers to the use of routinely provided health and medical services that do not exist for hearing people. It is especially important for health professionals such as nurses, doctors, admission office personnel, social workers and pharmacists to realize that deaf people communicate in different ways depending on such factors as language skills, amount of residual hearing, speech reading skills and speech abilities. Hard of hearing patients need assistive listening devices. Deaf-blind patients need interpreter services appropriate to them.
The health and mental health needs of the deaf community are comparable to their hearing counterparts. However, barriers to communication, insensitivity to or lack of knowledge about deaf culture and limited training related to the unique needs of deaf people have resulted in a scarcity of effective health services for deaf people. Without special services tailored to the unique communication needs of deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people, their medical and mental health needs will continue to be unmet. Health services must be completely accessible to deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind persons - socially, psychologically, and communicatively - in order for them to be comfortable enough to access health care. By providing necessary and appropriate means of communicating, the deaf community will have equal access to health care.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the general business law, in relation to wheelchair warranties.
PURPOSE: To enact consumer protections for persons who purchase wheelchairs. Protections include warranties, replacement of defective equipment and quality standards.
JUSTIFICATION: Wheelchairs and their customized component parts are absolutely essential to the mobility of many persons with disabilities. They are also very expensive, costing as much as $8,000. Much of this equipment is subject to frequent breakdown and is often not covered by warranties or other basic consumer protections. Further, defective or broken wheelchairs often take extended periods of time to repair, leaving persons with disabilities without adequate means to fulfill their most basic transportation needs. When those costs are covered by programs such as Medicaid, it is government that must bear the significant expense attributable to shoddy workmanship. It is critical that basic consumer protections apply to this expensive and important equipment.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the executive law, in relation to establishing and maintaining an emergency evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities.
PURPOSE: To ensure that there is an efficient emergency evacuation plan for people with disabilities who work or live in all high-rise buildings in New York State.
JUSTIFICATION: Since the tragedy of September 11th, awareness and education of high-rise building evacuation plans have been heightened, yet little is specified dealing with evacuating people with disabilities in the event of an emergency. Most people with disabilities, specifically those with mobility and/or sensory impairments, rely on elevators to exit a building, making independent evacuation during an emergency impossible for these individuals because elevator use is prohibited.
In the effort to create safer environments in the buildings most difficult to vacate, this bill requires every high-rise building owner to establish and maintain an emergency evacuation plan for disabled occupants and visitors of the building. Additionally, the building owner will be responsible for maintaining and updating the emergency evacuation plan for persons with disabilities as necessary and ensuring that such plan is readily available to emergency personnel.
To ensure compliance, a fine of $500 is imposed for any building owner who does not comply with the requirements set forth in this bill.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the vehicle and traffic law, in relation to providing certain persons with disabilities with a waiver for metered parking.
PURPOSE: To allow people with disabilities who are already entitled to a disabled person license plate or parking permit, and simply cannot operate a parting meter because of their lack of fine motor skills or inability to reach the meter, to obtain a metered parking waiver permit to park for free in metered parking spots.
JUSTIFICATION: Parking for people with certain physical disabilities is a challenge, especially in areas where street parking is largely monitored by parking meters. For drivers with certain fine motor control or dexterity limitations, or for those who cannot reach a parking meter because of their wheelchairs or other ambulatory devices, parking in metered parking spots can be impossible.
This bill, modeled after an existing law in the State of Michigan, will allow people with disabilities already entitled to a disabled person license plate or parking permit, who simply cannot operate a parking meter because of their inability to reach the meter or put payment into the tiny slots, to park for free in metered parking spots anywhere in New York State. In order to obtain permission to park for free in metered parking spots, interested persons will have to have a form from the Department of Motor Vehicles completed by their physician and submit such documentation to their same local government office that currently issues disabled person parking permits.
To limit abuse, there are several provisions in the bill. For instance, when utilizing the permission to park for free in metered parking spaces, the person with the qualifying disability must be the parked vehicle’s driver. When a person with a qualifying disability is traveling as a passenger, the driver of the vehicle can, and should, put payment into the meter. Violation of certain provisions in the bill may result in revocation of the permit or civil penalties.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the social services law, in relation to investing savings into rental subsidies for persons in the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion waiver program.
PURPOSE: To create a housing rental subsidy from savings from the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Waiver for people with disabilities who are diverted from entering nursing homes or for those who are leaving nursing homes.
JUSTIFICATION: With approval of the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion (NHTD) waiver, 5,000 persons with disabilities will be leaving nursing homes or diverted from entering a nursing home at the onset of their disability. Many of these individuals will need affordable and accessible housing which is in very short supply in New York State. Without adequate income due to the monthly SSI or SSDI rates, these individuals will not be able to find adequate housing to implement the purposes of the NHTD waiver.
In order for the waiver to be effective, it is essential that some of the savings accumulated from this waiver be re-invested in a housing subsidy for waiver participants. Without such a re-investment, New York State will not realize the potential savings, because many people will not be able to secure the housing necessary for them to live in the community.
When the Department of Health implemented the Medicaid waiver for survivors of traumatic brain injuries, a housing subsidy was funded to address this problem. The same type of subsidy needs to be established to assure the success of the NHTD waiver. Furthermore, the Department of Health, the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Office of Mental Health all have housing subsidies to assist individuals to live as independently as possible. These subsidies range from $350 to $1,000 per month with an average subsidy being $469 per month per participant. This legislation will help make the transition from a nursing home to less costly community housing possible through the creation of a housing subsidy for waiver participants.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the real property tax law, in relation to exemptions on real property owned by persons with disabilities.
PURPOSE: To provide relief from the burden of increasing real property taxes for persons with disabilities on limited incomes.
JUSTIFICATION: This legislation would greatly assist disabled New Yorkers with limited incomes confronted with the financial strain placed upon them by increasing real property tax rates. For many of these persons, especially those on fixed incomes, this burden is overwhelming. This bill would grant local governments the option to raise the income eligibility limit to qualify for the disabled real property tax exemption from the current $24,000 to $26,000.
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