Speaker Carl Heastie, Minority Leader William Barclay and New York State Assemblymembers, in observation of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, will pass a package of bills aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities.
"The Assembly remains committed to promoting access and inclusion for all New Yorkers so that they can thrive in their communities," said Speaker Heastie. "On Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day we highlight the accomplishments of New Yorkers with disabilities and advocates to better understand the challenges they face, search for meaningful ways to support them and recognize those that fight so hard for change."
"It is an honor to join my colleagues at this annual event to raise awareness about the critical issues facing the disability community. The dedication and passion from the many advocates, families and individuals with disabilities present here today is inspirational," said Minority Leader Barclay. "Our Conference will continue to be a strong voice in Albany, partnering with the disability community to address concerns and fight for critical funding of important services and care. We are committed to supporting a better quality of life for those with disabilities and their providers."
Today's legislative package includes a measure to establish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.9004, Steck). The office would serve to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and assure that they can exercise all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to all citizens of New York State, including the opportunity to live an independent life in their local community.
Also included is a measure that would waive the state's sovereign immunity with regard to application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment 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.1092, Lifton).
Additionally, there is legislation that would require public officers and bodies to provide qualified interpreters and assistive learning devices for hearing impaired individuals upon request at public meetings and hearings at no charge (A.3385, Dickens)
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.7331, Dilan).
"I am proud to once again stand with New Yorkers with disabilities as we celebrate their accomplishments and achievements," said Assemblymember Phillip Steck, chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities. "The bills included in the package today will ensure that people living with disabilities can continue to lead healthy and full lives in their homes and communities."
"On Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day we stand together with people living with disabilities and advocates who strive every day to improve the lives of those around them," said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, chair of the Committee on Mental Health. "Today is a day to learn from their expertise, honor their achievements and work together to make our communities even better places to live."
"The issues facing the disability community are complex and unique," said Assemblymember Melissa Miller, ranking minority member of the Committee on Mental Health. "As the mother of children with disabilities, I personally know the struggles facing families and their caregivers to give the best quality of life for the individuals within the disability community. It is my honor to once again be here today as a voice to advocate on their behalf and push for legislation that helps to address the challenges they face."
It is imperative that we can ensure the safety of our communities in the face of disasters and emergencies. A measure included in today's package would require counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster. Inclusion in the registry would be optional (A.3923, Weprin).
For people living with or without a disability, the opportunity to earn a living, help support their families and contribute to society is an important part of everyday life. Another bill would establish a small business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities to encourage the employment of capable individuals who are often overlooked (A.8996, Cusick).
In the event that an individual applying for public assistance has work limitations, disabilities or health issues receives a diagnosis from a practitioner provided by the local social services district that is inconsistent from the applicant's treating health care practitioner, a measure included in the Assembly's package today would require that the social services practitioner provide explicit written determination and evidence to support their diagnosis (A.8994, Hevesi).
Another piece of legislation in today's package would create a tax credit for new or retrofitted principal residences which are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing (A.9005, Lavine). Universal designs make residences accessible and user friendly for senior citizens and people with limited mobility. Providing individuals with the opportunity to age in place could save costs associated with assisted living or nursing homes and would assist in building an inventory of residences to ensure accessibility.