Assembly to Pass Legislative Package in
Observation of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day
Speaker Heastie addressed New Yorkers with disabilities and their advocates who gathered in Albany today for the Assembly's 37th Annual Legislative Disability Awareness Day, which highlights the accomplishments of individuals with disabilities and their advocates.
The all-day event, which was conducted jointly with Minority Leader Brian Kolb, included opening ceremonies, award presentations, exhibitors, seminars, the art work of school children entered into the Assembly's Disability Awareness Poster Contest and also an exhibitor fair, featuring information about the latest most popular products, technologies, programs and services that are of interest to people with disabilities.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will join Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb and New York State Assemblymembers this week in observing the annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day by passing a package of legislation aimed at improving the quality of life for New Yorkers living with disabilities.
"The Assembly remains committed to ensuring that every New Yorker has the opportunity to thrive," said Heastie. "That is why each year, we join New Yorkers with disabilities and advocates to recognize the achievements and important contributions of this community and search for ways that we can help persons with disabilities be even more successful."
"I am proud to once again join my Assembly colleagues to celebrate the accomplishments of community advocates and individuals with disabilities. In the past year, the Assembly Minority Conference has had the privilege of meeting individuals and stakeholders across the state to have a conversation about needs, concerns and issues facing our most vulnerable community. Whether it be increased resources, more effective services, or policy reform, we will always fight to ensure a better quality life for all New Yorkers," said Kolb.
The legislative package includes a bill that would waive the state's sovereign immunity with regard to the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination 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.2546, Lifton). Under current law, state employees are not able to initiate an action against the state or federal court for failure to comply with these protective measures.
Other measures to pass this week would guarantee improved accommodations for persons with disabilities, including bills that would:
enable blind and visually impaired registered voters to request and receive Braille or large-print absentee ballots for elections administered under the election law and education law, providing them an opportunity to cast their vote independently (A.4961-B, Weprin);
clarify that reasonable accommodations to enable a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling include the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A.7283, Dilan); and
allow tenants with physically disabling conditions that affect their mobility a preference in occupying a vacant dwelling unit on a lower floor in the same building operated by the New York City Housing Authority (A.4818, Titus).
"I am so pleased to be co-hosting Disabilities Awareness Day for the first time as Chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities. This day gives us the opportunity to focus on the goals of New York's disability community -- inclusion, integration, independence and accessibility," said Assemblymember Didi Barrett. "I thank the Speaker, my colleagues and everyone involved in this event for their work in making New York a better place to live, work and visit for people with disabilities."
"Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day is an opportunity to learn about the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and the remarkable ways those challenges are overcome," said Assemblymember Aileen Gunther, chair of the Mental Health Committee. "It is also the day we take time to honor the individuals who dedicate their lives to advocacy. It's a chance to renew our commitment to ensuring that people with disabilities have every opportunity to live their lives to the fullest."
"It is an honor to join my colleagues to co-host Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day and help raise awareness of the disability community. As the mother of a child with disabilities, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing individuals with disabilities and am committed to being a strong voice in support of the entire community," said Assemblymember Melissa "Missy" Miller, Ranking Minority Member on the Assembly Mental Health Committee. "As legislators, we must commit to addressing the unique issues facing New Yorkers with disabilities, their families and hard-working care providers to provide a better quality of life for all."
Also included in the Assembly's legislative package are measures to protect disabled New Yorkers in the event of an emergency. One such bill would require that every high-rise building owner establish and maintain an emergency evacuation plan for disabled occupants and ensure that such a plan is available to emergency personnel as needed (A.6287, Barrett). Another measure would require counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who wish to be included on such registry and who may require evacuation and shelter assistance during a disaster (A.6865, Weprin).
The package also addresses issues regarding trusts for persons with disabilities. One bill would allow trusts set up by individuals with disabilities to have such trust excluded from medical assistance eligibility determinations (A.6743, Barrett). Other legislation would require that certain individuals who apply for or receive medical assistance be given information that may enable an applicant to utilize a trust for the purpose of medical assistance eligibility (A.5175-A, Gottfried).
Another bill would establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans to identify the needs and services that service-disabled veterans require (A.5931, Ramos).
The legislative package also includes tax incentives for residential property owners to retrofit homes for the disabled, including measures that would:
Provide a tax credit that is equal to 30 percent of the cost of expenditures, up to $5,000 for making qualifying improvements (A.5333, Weprin); and
Provide a tax credit for a newly constructed principal residences or renovated principal residences of up to 50 percent of the amount expended, not to exceed $2,750 (A.5950-A, Lavine).