Assemblyman Santabarbara Works to Improve Quality of Life for People with Disabilities

In honor of today’s celebration of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) helped pass a series of bills supporting people with developmental disabilities.

“It’s critical that New Yorkers with developmental disabilities have access to the quality care they deserve. Today’s package of legislation is a good first step in supporting people with developmental disabilities and their families by combating discrimination, fostering community living and improving access to public facilities,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. “As the parent of a child with disabilities, I understand how these bills will help improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities and give a peace of mind to their families.”

The Assembly’s legislative package includes a number of measures that aim to combat discrimination, help veterans with disabilities, encourage community living and improve emergency preparedness. These bills would:

  • ensure equal protection for all New York State employees under 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 (A.5388);
  • improve the accessibility of public facilities by making it a discriminatory practice under the state Human Rights Law for a state or local government to refuse to remove barriers in existing structures, vehicles or rail passenger cars unless the removal would constitute an undue burden (A.136-A);
  • require that the services of sign-language interpreters be made available upon the request of a hearing-impaired individual at public hearings and meetings, as well as establish provisions for assistive listening systems to be required in rooms used for public hearings that accommodate more than 100 people (A.1669-A);
  • ensure consideration of a treating physician’s opinion in determining work limitations due to a disability or health issue that might affect the individual’s compliance with public assistance work requirements (A.3450);
  • would enable blind and visually impaired voters to request Braille or large-print absentee ballots for elections administered under the election and education laws (A.2104-A);
  • aid localities in preparing for and responding to disasters by requiring counties to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster. People would be provided with the option to be included in the registry (A.2658-A); and
  • establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans. The council would be tasked with better identifying the needs of our service-disabled veterans and matching them with appropriate state resources (A.4789).

Assemblyman Santabarbara has also introduced a bill (A. 5141) that ensures job seekers with developmental disabilities have access to critical communication training. The legislation directs the state to offer communication support as one of the vocational rehabilitation services available to New Yorkers seeking employment. Training is an important part of addressing the high unemployment rates for people with developmental disabilities, especially people with Autism, who need help improving interpersonal skills.

This proposal was drafted with the help of two local activists, Henny Kupferstein and Rebecca Botta-Zalucki, who identified the gap in services and worked with Assemblyman Santabarbara’s office to address the issue. The Schenectady ARC, Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, Asperger Syndrome and High Functioning Autism Association and Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP) all support the legislation.