Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities, and Assemblymember Peter Rivera, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities today hosted the 2006 Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day in Albany, New York. The Assembly sponsors this event annually to present legislators, their staffs and the general public with a chance to be educated first hand on the issues that the disability community faces, and at the same time, to recognize the achievements and accomplishments of people with disabilities and advocates alike.
“In recognition of Disabilities Awareness Day, the Assembly will be passing an impressive 18-bill agenda we crafted with your advice and expert counsel. In a democracy, there is no such thing as a second class citizen. We are obligated to ensure that all New Yorkers are fully integrated into our democratic society. Your presence here is good for our democracy and, indeed, is a powerful demonstration of what democracy is meant to be,” said Speaker Silver.
"I am thrilled to have cosponsored this event because it brought together a number of disability advocates, persons with disabilities and their families, interested public participants and legislators who are dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities," Assemblymember Paulin (D-Scarsdale) said. "Disabilities Awareness Day is the pinnacle of the Task Force's year because it allows us to demonstrate our commitment to New York's disability community in a variety of ways. It provides those of us legislators with an opportunity to share the work we are pursuing, often in conjunction with advocates, to improve the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities. I am proud of what we accomplished today, but I look forward to continuing our work to someday soon ensure full inclusion and integration for all New Yorkers."
"I can not overstate the significance of today's show of strength by the disabilities community,” Mr. Rivera (D-Bronx) said. “From electoral reform to advocating for equal opportunity, all New Yorkers are the beneficiaries of the battles being fought by people with disabilities. I look forward to continuing to join hands in our work to improve the lives of all New Yorkers."
Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day Events
To kick of the events of the day, an opening ceremony was held in the Legislative Office Building where Speaker Silver, Assemblymember Paulin and Assemblymember Rivera welcomed the participants and reaffirmed the Assembly's commitment to New York's disability community. At the opening ceremony, Robert Davies, Founder and CEO of Disability Access 4 Me, LLC, was named the second recipient of the annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day "Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr." Advocacy Award for his work on behalf of people with disabilities.
Over 50 organizations were on hand to distribute information about the products, programs, technologies and services they provide for people with disabilities. Furthermore, four seminars were held in Hearing Rooms B and C in the Legislative Office Building on various disabilities issues. Discussions were held on the following topics:
- Navigating the Medicare Part D Benefit and Wrap-around Coverage
- Housing for People with Disabilities
- The Criminal Justice System’s Interaction with People with Mental Health Issues
- Implementing Election Reform in our Local Communities
2006 Disabilities Awareness Day Legislative Package
In honor of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, the Assembly passed an 18-bill package of legislation, crafted with the assistance of disabilities advocates, aimed at ensuring fairness and equity in New York State.
“As we do every year, we spent a majority of our time formulating a legislative agenda for today’s program that focuses on the themes of access, basic rights, integration and inclusion,” Assemblymember Paulin noted. “Many legislative bills that passed today are measures that disabilities advocates have been fighting tirelessly for throughout this past year."
Bills in the 2006 legislative package include:
- A.1852 (Koon) – Provides that ballots for all elections shall be available in Braille, upon request of a blind or visually impaired voter.
- A.2159 (Lifton) – Waives the state’s sovereign immunity to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, restoring the rights of state employees to sue the State of New York for damages due to violations of the ADA.
- A.5737 (Cahill) – Requires shopping centers or shopping facilities that have at least three separate retail stores and at least 20 off-street parking spaces to provide handicapped parking spaces of a minimum of five percent of such parking spaces or ten spaces, whichever is less.
- A.6328 (Cahill)/S.3921 (Spano) – Clarifies 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, consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the Division of Human Rights.
- A.7294 (Paulin)/S.5074 (Spano) – Clarifies 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, consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the Division of Human Rights.
- A.7337 (Paulin)/S.4873 (Morahan) – Requires access aisles of handicapped accessible parking places to be at least eight feet wide to ensure that they are wide enough for people with disabilities to enter and exit their vehicles.
- A.7338 (Paulin)/S.4871 (Morahan) – Requires access aisles of handicapped parking spaces to be marked with a sign and diagonal stripes to further prevent people from parking in such spaces.
- A.7339 (Paulin)/S.4796 (Flanagan) – Provides that polling places, whenever practicable, to be designated directly on a public transportation route.
- A.7867 (Paulin)/S.4933 (Morahan) – Provides that programs or activities relating to housing which receives federal financial assistance shall comply with the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- A.7868 (Paulin)/S.4875 (Morahan) – Authorizes the Commissioner of the Division of Housing and Community Renewal to maintain a housing registry of accessible or adaptable housing for the disabled called "Access-New York," provides that certain owners shall provide specific information in relation to "Access-New York" and establishes a special advisory panel to assist the Commissioner in performance of duties associated with "Access-New York."
- A.8697 (Paulin)/S.5734 (Morahan) – Increases income eligibility for real property tax exemption on property owned by one or more persons with disabilities over the next four years.
- A.9234 (Morelle)/S.1899 (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.
- A.9981 (Paulin) – Requires the Department of Health to promulgate rules and regulations concerning hard of hearing patients and others.
- A.10005 (Paulin)/S.7210 (Balboni) – Extends the motorized wheelchair warranty requirement to all wheelchairs to enact consumer protections for persons who purchase wheelchairs. Protections include warranties, replacement of defective equipment and quality standards.
- A.10361 (Paulin)/S.7462 (Balboni) – Establishes emergency evacuation plan requirements for individuals with disabilities within high-rise building and establishes a $500 fine for failure to comply.
- A.10563 (Paulin)/S.7815 (Spano) – Allows specified drivers with severe disabilities to park for free at parking meters if certain conditions are met.
- A.10726 (Paulin) – Authorizes savings from the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion waiver program to be reinvested in housing subsidies for certain participants.
- A.10766 (Paulin)/S.7663 (Morahan) – Increases income eligibility for real property tax exemption on property owned by one or more persons with disabilities for 2006.