Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (D-Rockland) and Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) announced today that after years of a gap in essential services for the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing community, they've introduced legislation to establish a new State office (A6710/S1852).
New York State currently has no operating entity that is committed to providing services to the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing community despite many other States having dedicated agencies or commissions. In 2007, an interagency council was created to streamline services to the community and was originally under the administration of the NYS Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQCAPD). In 2012, it was subsequently moved to the newly created Justice Center and since the reorganization, the Interagency Coordinating Council for Services to Persons Who are Deaf, Deaf-Blind, or Hard of Hearing, is defunct and has not met in years. Recognizing a significant absence of services and support for deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing New Yorkers, Zebrowski and Skoufis engaged the community to get the ball rolling.
This new Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would replace the defunct council and provide a central site for essential services. It would be led by an Executive Director that would advise the Governor and Legislature on how New York State can best meet the needs of the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing communities. Responsibilities of the office include creating a statewide plan for delivering services, maintaining a website, a referral system for complaints, expanding employment opportunities and developing policies for the Governor and Legislature. Additionally, Zebrowski and Skoufis' legislation sets up a deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing advisory council, comprised of eleven members - including those that are deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing, that will make policy recommendations on related issues.
"In the year 2021, it is frankly unacceptable that we do not have a State office dedicated to our deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing residents. This new office will be a one-stop location where services and resources are easily accessible and fills a void in State government that has been present for far too long. Senator Skoufis and I have partnered with the deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing community on several issues now, and I look forward to continuing our work together to improving the lives of all New Yorkers," said Assemblyman Zebrowski.
“Let me be clear, the State has been derelict in its duties to the deaf and hard of hearing community, this legislation will bring us one-step closer to providing equity where it is rightfully due,” said Senator Skoufis. “I’m honored to champion this issue on behalf of the deaf and hard of hearing community in the Senate. Assemblyman Zebrowski and I have a proven track record of getting issues across the finish line in Albany, and I look forward to doing just that with this legislation.”
"New York State has two commissions that serve for blind and development disabilities, but nothing for deaf, deaf-blind, and hard-of-hearing citizens of New York. The deaf community is a unique cultural, civic, and linguistic of approximately 2 million deaf, deaf-blind, and hard-of-hearing citizens of New York that are often left behind. I live in a state that has not embraced people with hearing loss to be part of the Greater State of New York. As an advocate for the deaf community, it is my goal to get New York State to form the Deaf, Deaf-blind, and Hard of Hearing Commission to ensure civic, linguistic access for the deaf community as we advance," said Sean Gerlis, advocate.
The bill would take effect on the 180th day after becoming law.