Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced that he helped pass a series of bills to strengthen protections for and combat discrimination against individuals with disabilities. The Assembly package was passed on May 30 in recognition of this years Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.
A disability doesnt define a person, Steck said. We must continue fighting to break down barriers to ensure equal access to housing, employment and other critical resources for New Yorkers with disabilities. This legislation is an important victory on that front.
The package includes a measure Steck co-sponsored to ensure New York State employees can sue if their rights are violated 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.2546). Steck noted that this legislation ensures state employees have the same protections as private employees. Another bill considers a physicians opinion and requires evidence when a social services health practitioners determinations differ from a treating physician for a disability or medical condition that could affect a persons compliance with public assistance work requirements (A.3045). And to help more people with disabilities find good jobs, Steck also helped passed a bill to provide a tax credit to small businesses that hire an employee with a disability working at least 35 hours a week for a year or more (A.1369-A).
The legislation Steck helped pass also combats housing discrimination by clarifying that the term reasonable accommodation includes the use of a service animal (A.7283). Two other measures help increase safety for people with disabilities during emergencies. One requires owners of high-rise buildings to establish and maintain an emergency evacuation plan for occupants and visitors with disabilities, and another requires counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a voluntary and confidential registry of residents with disabilities who may need assistance or shelter during a disaster (A.10201, A.6865). The Assembly package also includes measures to provide tax credits for homeowners to make their houses more accessible so people with disabilities can stay in their communities or find better housing options. The first tax credit would be for owners of residential properties who make qualified improvements, such as no-step entrances and grab bars in bathrooms, and the second would be available for homeowners renovating or building homes with universal visitability design features (A.5333-A, A.10668).
And to recognize the sacrifices our brave veterans made in service to their country, a bill was passed to establish the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans (A.5931-A). The council would assist veterans with service-related disabilities and help them gain access to the state and local resources they deserve. Steck also helped pass a bill to re-establish the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities to ensure New Yorkers with disabilities are afforded equal opportunities and can live independently in their communities (A.10706).