from the New York State
Assembly Task Force on
People with Disabilities
Michele R. Titus, Chair • Sheldon Silver, Speaker

A Message from the Chair...

December 2008

Dear Friend,

Oh what a year! I can say with complete certainty that 2008 has been an experience like no other. And while the news that we continue to hear each and every day is frightening, I am optimistic that New York’s disability community will rally together as it always does to protect and preserve the funding, programs and services that people with disabilities need and deserve.

That said, I would like to thank the hundreds of people with disabilities and advocates who helped make the 2008 Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day (LDAD) a great success. I am tremendously proud of the legislative package that we presented and passed on the Assembly floor that day—much of which was crafted by the disability advocates who we rely on to help us draft and implement our yearly agenda. Keep up the great work! And while we were not successful in moving our agenda through the Senate last year, I have great hopes for the upcoming 2009 legislative session, as I am certain do many of you.

As many of you are aware, 2009 is going to be a very tough year, financially speaking. Due to our current fiscal crisis, the budget process is being fast-tracked. Governor Paterson presented his budget mid-December, rather than mid-January as has been the custom. With that in mind, I ask those of you who will be contacting my Task Force office regarding budget-related issues and requests to do so as quickly as possible. I also am calling on all advocates to join our mission to focus heavily on such non-budget issues as improving taxi access for people with disabilities and putting Title II of the ADA into state law.

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 fights on the floor of the Assembly chamber to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

  Legislative Disabilities 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 Disabilities Awareness Day (LDAD) on May 12, 2008 in Albany. Frank Pennisi, co-founder and program services coordinator of the Southern Tier Independence Center, Inc. and founder and chair of the Americans Demanding Access Committee of New York, 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, 14 students from Assemblyman Michael Cusick’s district were awarded for their perceptive and creative entries into our annual elementary school poster contest. Please see page four to learn more about this year’s exceptional contest. And as per our custom, 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.

Also, four seminars on disability issues were held on the following topics:

2008 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:

The majority of legislation related to disabilities passed the Assembly in honor of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day. Other measures of importance to people with disabilities that passed this session include:

 Task Force Sponsors Several
Public Hearings on Employment Issues

Throughout 2008, the Task Force on People with Disabilities co-sponsored three different public hearings that focused on the various issues revolving around improving employment for New Yorkers with disabilities. The unemployment rate of New York’s disability community is unacceptable, and because of that fact, the Task Force plans to focus heavily on the problems that are contributing towards it until people with disabilities who are able and willing to work can do so without the discriminating factors that they currently face.

On June 2, 2008, the Task Force and the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities held a hearing in Albany on workforce issues and people with disabilities. This hearing was held to determine if current laws, regulations and programs adequately protect and support people with disabilities in regard to employment.

On September 15, 2008, the Task Force and the Committee on Health sponsored a public hearing in New York City on New York State’s Medicaid Buy-In program for people with disabilities to learn how effectively the Medicaid Buy-In program in New York is working. This hearing uncovered what we had suspected all along, that there are some fundamental ways in which the program needs to be improved. Most significantly, it became abundantly clear that too many people with disabilities do not know enough about this program, and, more importantly, that many local DSS workers, the very individuals who are responsible for enrolling people into the Buy-In, are very uninformed about the program.

Furthermore, on November 19, 2008, the Task Force, in conjunction with the Assembly Committees on Veterans Affairs, Labor and Governmental Employees, the Commission on Skills Development and Career Education and the Subcommittee on Women Veterans, held a public hearing on Veteran Employment in New York State to examine the various state programs providing assistance to veterans and disabled veterans.

And on a separate topic, the Task Force also co-sponsored a roundtable on durable medical equipment prior approval, delivery and payment practices within the Medicaid program with the Assembly Committees on Health and Oversight, Analysis and Investigation.

For more information on any of these hearings, please contact the Task Force office at 518-455-4592.

 LDAD Poster Contest Draws Hundreds of Entries

This year, we decided to expand upon our annual elementary school poster contest for Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day because of the phenomenal response to last year’s contest. This year, we honored 14 individuals who accurately depicted some of the many issues that people with disabilities face daily. We were thrilled at both the level of participation we received from many of the schools in Assemblyman Cusick’s district and the quality of each of the entries. This year’s winners were:

First Place

Second Place

We would like to thank each of the students, teachers and schools who helped make this year’s contest such a success. We feel that this contest has become an important part of LDAD because teaching today’s children both about the challenges that people with disabilities face and the contributions they make to society will make tomorrow’s leaders much less tolerant of discrimination.

  2008 LDAD Photos

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver addresses the crowd at the Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day luncheon in Albany, NY.


Assemblyman Michael Cusick and Assemblywoman Michele Titus pose with eight of the poster contest winners: Top Row: Kerrin Woll, Hannah Gumb, Sunny Chen. Bottom Row: Michael Gianino, Makenna Athanassiou, Jennifer Gatto, Marianna Chance, Katie Sullivan.


Assemblywoman Michele Titus presents the Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. Advocacy Award to Mr. Frank Pennisi, co-founder and program services coordinator of the Southern Tier Independence Center, Inc. and founder and chair of the Americans Demanding Access Committee of New York.

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

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