On Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, Assembly Passes Bills to Improve the Lives of NYers with Disabilities

(January 29, 2020) Today, as Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day is observed in the State Capitol, the New York State Assembly passed a package of bills aimed at improving the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities. “On Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, I join with my Assembly colleagues from both parties to recognize the significant achievements of New Yorkers with disabilities and to help them address the challenges they face,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried (D/WFP-Manhattan), Chair of the Assembly Health Committee. Legislation passed by the Assembly today included the following bills:

Disability Rights

Today’s legislative package includes legislation to establish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A. 9004, sponsored by Assembly Member Phil Steck), which I am co-sponsoring.  The office would serve to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities to help ensure that they can exercise all of the rights and responsibilities accorded to all residents of New York State, including the opportunity to live an independent life in their local community. Also included is a bill that I am co-sponsoring 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, sponsored by Assembly Member Barbara Lifton).  Additionally, we passed a measure 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, sponsored by Assembly Member Inez 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, sponsored by Assembly Member Erik Dilan).                                                                                                           

Emergency Preparedness

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, sponsored by Assembly Member David Weprin).  

Employment

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, sponsored by Assembly Member Michael Cusick).  

Health Care

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, sponsored by Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi).   

Housing

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, sponsored by Assembly Member Charles 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.

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