News. . .
from the New York
State Assembly
Task Force on
People with

Michele R. Titus, Chair • Sheldon Silver, Speaker

Assemblywoman Michele Titus Michele Titus

NYS Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities


A Message from the Chair. . .

December 2007

Dear Friend,

As new Chair of the Assembly’s Task Force on People with Disabilities, I would like to take this opportunity to say how thrilled I am with this new appointment. In the few short months that I have been Chair of the Task Force, I have had the opportunity to meet several of the disability community’s finest advocates and work on some very critical issues.

I would also like to thank outgoing Chair, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, for all of the tremendous work that she did on behalf of New Yorkers with disabilities. As you might be aware, Assemblywoman Paulin was, and continues to be, a strong advocate on the issues most important to people with disabilities. Please be assured that I am looking forward to continuing the long-standing tradition of intense advocacy that the past Chairpersons have demonstrated.

I am happy to report that the disability community won several hard-fought victories during the 2007 Legislative Session. First and foremost, during the very intense budget season, New York’s independent living centers secured an additional $500,000 in funding, and a $2.5 million housing subsidy was added to the new Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Waiver. In addition, several new laws have been signed by the Governor, most of which have been priorities of the disability community for quite some time now. Pages two and three of this newsletter highlight our biggest legislative accomplishments this year, including the measures that have just become law.

As Chair of the Task Force, I would like to urge and seek your continued advocacy and input as we continue to fine tune and develop our priority agenda. I am very aware that advocates and New Yorkers with disabilities are the best people to set our course as we move into 2008. I look forward to hearing from you, and as always, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please call my Task Force office at 518-455-4592.

Michele R. Titus, Chair
New York State Assembly
Task Force on People with Disabilities

Assemblywoman Michele Titus addresses the crowd at Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on May 21, 2007.

Legislative Disability Awareness Day

The New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities and the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities co-sponsored the annual Legislative Disability Awareness Day (LDAD) on May 21, 2007, in Albany. Bruce Darling, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights and organizer for New York State ADAPT, was presented with the annual Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. Advocacy Award, which honors individuals in the name of this legendary activist and supporter of disability rights.

Furthermore, six students from Assemblyman Michael Cusick’s district were awarded for their perceptive and creative entries into this year’s poster contest. Those students included:

  • Nicole Leahy, Kindergarten, Our Lady Queen of Peace;

  • Michael Gianino, First Grade, P.S. 55;

  • Delaney Petito, Second Grade, Our Lady Queen of Peace;

  • Christopher McLendon, Third Grade, P.S. 55;

  • Andrew Milazzo, Fourth Grade, P.S. 6; and

  • Sarah Schwartz, Fifth Grade, P.S. 6.

Over 50 organizations that serve the disability community displayed exhibits to provide information and demonstrate the services and opportunities that are available to people with disabilities.

In addition, four seminars on issues of interest to people with disabilities were also held. The seminars were held on: “Strengthening and Restoring the Americans with Disabilities Act,” “An Update on the Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Waiver and Money Follows the Person in New York State,” “Successful Grassroots Advocacy Techniques” and “New York’s Direct Support Workforce - Supporting Those Who Support Others.”

2007 LDAD Legislation Agenda

As part of LDAD tradition, the Assembly passed a package of legislation aimed at making the lives of people with disabilities easier. This year’s legislative package included:

  • A.73 (Weisenberg) – Requires ATMs to use both audio and visual systems of relaying messages to its customers, thus providing equal access for all individuals.

  • A.244 (Cahill) – Requires polling places to be accessible to physically disabled voters.

  • A.4691 (Paulin)/S.3583 (Fuschillo) – Provides for a metered parking waiver permit for certain severely disabled drivers. (signed into law by Governor)

  • A.4932 (Paulin)/S.5670 (Saland) – Clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the area of public accommodations. (signed into law by Governor)

  • A.6303 (Paulin) – Clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in the area of government services.

  • A.6304 (Paulin) – Clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability both in the areas of public accommodations and government services.

  • A.7102 (Titus)/S.2164 (Robach) – Directs the Department of Public Service to implement a program assuring access to telephone service for all New Yorkers, including but not limited to the hearing and visually impaired, and provides for the use of assistive telecommunications devices or adaptive equipment.

  • A.7103 (Titus) – Ensures, 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.

  • A.7105 (Titus)/S.3801 (Leibell) – Provides that there is an efficient emergency evacuation plan for people with disabilities who work or live in high-rise buildings in New York State.

  • A.7106 (Titus)/S.692 (Flanagan) – Requires public officers and bodies to provide interpreters for the hearing impaired at public hearings under certain conditions.

  • A.7107 (Titus)/S.3957 (Morahan) – Creates a New York State housing registry containing up-to-date information regarding accessible housing statewide for people with disabilities.

  • A.7109 (Titus) – Authorizes savings from the Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion waiver program to be reinvested in housing subsidies for certain participants.

  • A.7110 (Titus)/S.3955 (Morahan) – Requires access aisles of handicapped parking spaces to be marked with a sign and diagonal stripes.

  • A.7111 (Titus)/S.3954 (Morahan) – Requires access aisles of handicapped accessible parking spaces to be at least eight feet wide.

Assembly Introduces Bill to Improve Taxi Service for People with Disabilities

After months of advocacy from the disability community, Assemblywoman Titus introduced Assembly Bill A.8520, which provides persons with disabilities access to pre-arranged for-hire vehicles. This bill is intended to address the statewide problem that exists due to the fact that, when it comes to the provision of private transportation as it pertains to people with disabilities, there is no real comparable requirement such as what is available under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) within new facilities, which must be accessible.

Current law does not require private transportation providers to ensure wheelchair access in their vehicles, and it does not require them to buy such accessible vehicles. Therefore, people with disabilities are, for all practical purposes, being discriminated against by such companies. It is this gap or oversight within our existing laws that this bill is attempting to modify, which will serve to enhance community integration and participation by citizens with disabilities.

Furthermore, making this service available to people with disabilities will contribute to the implementation of the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision, and it will also provide an inexpensive choice for Medicaid medical service for wheelchair users who, in the present, have no alternative but to use a very expensive ambulance-like service – costing the Medicaid program millions of dollars. Therefore, the availability of accessible for-hire vehicles could significantly reduce Medicaid costs while helping the state come into Olmstead compliance.

An integral component of a transportation network in many communities is the taxi service. For many people, taxis provide the essential link between their homes, the community-at-large and other transportation services. And as the population of this state ages, the stock of affordable, reliable and, most importantly, accessible transportation models will only become more necessary in the coming years.

Additional LDAD and Other Important Disability Legislation

  • A.7137 (Titus) – Authorizes 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.

  • A.7138 (Titus)/S.3956 (Morahan) – Provides that programs or activities relating to housing which receives federal financial assistance shall comply with the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

  • A.7196 (Koon) – Provides that ballots for all elections shall be made available in Braille or large print, upon the request of a blind or visually impaired voter.

  • A.7244 (Bing)/S.1681 (Golden) – Includes persons with disabilities within the definition of head of household for purposes of making them eligible for the senior citizens’ tax abatement for rent-controlled and rent-regulated property.

  • A.7653 (Lifton) – Waives the state’s sovereign immunity to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The majority of legislation related to disabilities passed the Assembly in honor of Legislative Disability Awareness Day.

Other measures of importance to people with disabilities that passed this session include:

  • A.2461 (Morelle)/S.1923 (Robach) – Creates a New York State interagency council for services to persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing to promote a comprehensive service system for this population. (signed into law by Governor)

  • A.5291 (Perry)/S.5397 (Morahan) – Requires health maintenance organizations to provide access to their facilities and medical diagnostic equipment by people with disabilities.

  • A.5954 (Paulin)/S.3952 (Morahan) – Ensures that people with disabilities are treated in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act when purchasing gasoline.

  • A.7952 (Benedetto)/S.4236 (Winner) – Clarifies provisions of the Human Rights Law concerning the use of guide dogs, hearing dogs and service dogs. (signed into law by Governor)

  • A.8997 (Titus)/S.5476 (LaValle) – Ensures that students with print disabilities have timely and full access to instructional materials in suitable alternate formats for use in colleges in New York State. (signed into law by Governor)

Assembly Hosts Hearings on the Current Service Delivery System for Individuals with Vision Impairments

The Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, the Committee on Health and the Committee on Children and Families recently held two public hearings on the recent movement to reform the current service delivery system for people who are blind or visually impaired in New York State. The first one was held on August 29, 2007, in Albany, and the second one was held September 25, 2007, in New York City.

The New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH) provides and oversees services to blind and visually impaired individuals throughout the state. In recent months, there has been a move by some advocates and government representatives to make changes to the existing service delivery and oversight system. The Governor’s 2007 budget presentation included a proposal to replace the existing CBHV, which is currently located within the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), with a newly created Office for the Blind. While this proposal was not included in the final budget, the establishment of a new Executive Board within CBVH was. These hearings were held to determine what, if any, changes should be made to the existing service delivery system for people with vision impairments in New York State, including oversight of the system, and whether or not the recent alterations (both proposed and actual) to the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped were necessary or adequate. It was the goal of the Task Force and Committees to give all affected parties the opportunity to answer these important questions and have their voices heard on this issue.

The Task Force still encourages any affected individuals to contact our office regarding this issue if you have not already done so or had the opportunity to participate in the hearings.

2007 LDAD Photos

Assemblywoman Titus presents Bruce Darling, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights and Organizer for NYS ADAPT, with the Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. Advocacy Award.

Assemblyman Cusick celebrates with poster contest winners Andrew Milazzo, Nicole Leahy, Michael Gianino, Sarah Schwartz and Delaney Petito.

Bruce Darling and Chris Hilderbrant from the Center for Disability Rights present a seminar on An Update on the Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Waiver and Money Follows the Person in New York State.

For More Information Contact. . .
New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities
Kimberly T. Hill, Director • Agency Building 4, 13th Floor, Albany, New York 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4592 • Fax: (518) 455-7099

New York State Assembly
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