Speaker Carl Heastie and People with Disabilities Committee Chair Thomas J. Abinanti today announced that the Assembly will pass a package of bills that would improve the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities, including giving them better access to services, and helping end the societal stigma and discrimination that individuals with disabilities endure.
“Every year we come together on Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day to not just raise awareness of the struggles of those living with disabilities, but to pass meaningful legislation to address the challenges they face,” Speaker Heastie said. “We will continue working to fight against the harmful prejudices still prevalent in our society, and to ensure these New Yorkers have access to the resources and services they need.”
“New York must support people with disabilities who have a right to live a good, quality life. This year’s Disability Awareness Day marks a turning point in New York. Our budget – for the first time in a long time – and our legislation recognize the potential of people with disabilities and the benefits we all gain from helping them overcome their challenges,” said Assemblymember Abinanti.
Included in the legislative package are bills that would make it easier for New Yorkers with disabilities to access services. One bill would establish a commission to evaluate and make recommendations for state agencies to streamline eligibility requirements and processes for programs and services that assist individuals with disabilities (A.8816-A, Epstein). Currently there is no state agency dedicated to the deaf community. Legislation to pass today would create the Commission on the Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, which would provide deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing New Yorkers with a one stop location in state government where they can access available services and resources (A.6710-B, Zebrowski).
The Assembly will also pass a bill that would restore the rights of state employees to sue New York State for violations of their rights by waiving 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. This will give state employees the same rights afforded to other New Yorkers, and ensure the right of people with disabilities to bring civil action against the state for failure to provide access for the disabled public to government services, programs and activities (A.7121, Kelles).
Individuals with disabilities face challenges that New Yorker’s without disability do not face when entering the workforce. Legislation to pass today would establish a small business tax credit for employment of people with disabilities. This credit will be available to businesses with fewer than 100 employees that employ a person with a disability for at least six months for a minimum of 35 hours a week (A.3960-A, Cusick). Another bill would enhance access to employment opportunities by requiring the Department of Civil Service to post information on their website. This would ensure equal access to job opportunities for individuals with disabilities and veterans who historically have higher unemployment rates, and ensure a large applicant pool for the position (A.8599-A, Epstein).
Many individuals with disabilities face prejudice and discrimination in our society. Included in this legislative package are bills that would help reduce the stigma around having a disability. One bill would establish a public awareness program to combat the stigma and stereotyping of individuals with developmental disabilities by highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of those with developmental disabilities (A.7356-B, Woerner). Another bill would replace the outdated and harmful term “mentally retarded” with “individuals with developmental disabilities” (A.7443-B, Abinanti).
Legislation to pass today would create a tax credit for new and retrofitted principal residences which are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing. This would allow people to age in place, and make homes more friendly for seniors and those with limited mobility (A.3409-A, Lavine).
The Assembly will also pass legislation to help ensure students with disabilities have the tools they need to succeed. One bill would extend for an additional three years a provision that provides students with disabilities access to suitable instructional materials for college courses (A.9976, Gibbs). Another that would require school districts to develop a procedure to notify parents of children with a disability on the same day when a physical or mechanical restraint is applied to their child or their child is placed in a timeout room. While some students have the use of restraints or seclusion included in the individualized education program (IEP) to prevent them from hurting themselves or others, the stress of it can cause physical and/or emotional manifestations later. It is vital that parents are made aware so they can help their child and give them the comfort and care they need later (A.8540-A, Burdick).