May 11, 2015

Assembly Observes Annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day With Comprehensive Package of Legislation

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (at podium) addresses the Assembly's annual Legislative Disability Awareness Day in Albany. Heastie underscored the Assembly's longstanding commitment to legislation aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities. Included in the 11 bill legislative package approved by the Assembly are measures that would provide greater public accommodation and remove discriminatory barriers for people with disabilities. The Speaker was joined by Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair David I. Weprin and Assemblymember Michael Cusick.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb today announced the passage of an extensive package of bills that would increase access to services and improve the quality of life for New Yorkers with disabilities. Speaker Heastie and Assemblymember Kolb were joined by the Task Force on People with Disabilities Chair David I. Weprin, Mental Health Committee Chair Aileen M. Gunther, Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Mental Health Steve Katz and the rest of the Assembly in celebrating the annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.

"Today we honor individuals with disabilities and raise awareness about the day-to-day challenges they overcome," said Heastie. "With this package of legislation, we continue our commitment to improving living conditions for all New Yorkers with disabilities. Ensuring that all New Yorkers have access to the programs and services they need to thrive is of the upmost importance to the Assembly."

"It is an honor to join my Assembly colleagues to co-host Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day. This annual event celebrates the incredible accomplishments of those living with disabilities and recognizes the work of dedicated community advocates," said Kolb. "The Assembly Minority Conference and I will continue our efforts to ensure every individual is provided the opportunity to be successful without prejudice."

The Assembly's Legislative Package includes a measure that would amend the state's Human Rights Law to clarify the definition of a place of public accommodation, resort or amusement to include state-and locally-owned government facilities in order to further protect the rights of individuals with disabilities (A.136-A, Paulin). The bill clarifies that as long as it is determined that a proposed accommodation poses no undue burden on state or local governments, the state or municipal government would be required to remove certain barriers currently limiting access to transportation or government services and buildings for individuals with disabilities. The package helps ensure the elimination of discriminatory practices against people with disabilities, including measures that would:

"Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day gives us the opportunity to recognize New Yorkers with disabilities and their fellow advocates," said Weprin. "As Chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities, I am proud to once again be a part of this day and I thank my colleagues for their continued support of legislation that helps people with disabilities live fulfilling, independent lives."

"Disabilities can be as diverse as the people they affect. Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day raises awareness about the different issues facing New Yorkers with disabilities and their families and opens a dialogue about what we, as elected representatives, can still do to remove remaining discriminatory barriers," said Gunther. "Today's package of bills addresses a range of challenges in hopes of making New York a more inclusive place."

"I'm proud to yet again be part of the Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, an event that highlights the accomplishments and struggles of people with disabilities," said Katz. "Each year is another opportunity to celebrate successes within the disability community and to learn how we as legislators can craft legislation that addresses issues facing those with disabilities and their families."

The Assembly's Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day agenda also includes several pieces of legislation intended to better ensure that all New Yorkers with disabilities are kept safe in the event of an emergency or natural disaster and have accessible housing and transportation options. They would:

The package also includes bills that would establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans to identify the needs and services that service-disabled veterans require (A.4789, Ramos) and that would enable blind and visually impaired registered voters to request and receive Braille or large-print absentee ballots for elections administered under the Election and Education Law, providing them the opportunity to cast their vote independently (A.2104-A, Weprin).

In addition, legislation expected to pass later in session in celebration of Disabilities Awareness Day would allow advanced home health aides to perform advanced tasks, including the administration of medications, under the direct supervision of a registered professional nurse (A.7188, Glick). This would expand access to affordable home care options and help individuals with disabilities to transition from institutional settings to more comfortable home environments.

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