Assemblymember Phil Steck (D-Colonie) announced that he helped pass a series of bills to protect the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities and ensure they can access vital resources that enable them to live full, independent lives. The legislative package was passed in recognition of this years Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on May 29.
New Yorkers with disabilities should be able to participate in their communities fully just like other residents, Steck said. They deserve to dream big and pursue those dreams. With this package, were safeguarding their rights and breaking down barriers to equality.
As chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, Steck sponsored a measure to re-establish the Office of Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.4737). Steck also sponsored a bill to ensure access to complex rehabilitation technology (CRT) products and services for individuals with disabilities (A.7492). The measure would require the Commissioner of Health to maintain specific reimbursement and billing procedures within Medicaid for CRT equipment, such as a customized wheelchair, and would ensure that payments for such products and services permit adequate access to complex needs patients and take into account the significant resources, infrastructure and staff required to meet their needs. Steck noted that this legislation would help Medicaid recipients who need this technology to maintain their independence. Another bill Steck supported creates a tax credit for either new or retrofitted principal residences that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing (A.2493).
The package also includes measures to fight discrimination, including a measure 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.1092). Another measure requires interpreters and assistive listening devices be provided for deaf or hard of hearing individuals at public hearings under certain conditions (A.3385-A).
The Assemblys package also aims to help New Yorkers with disabilities get ahead. To support them as they pursue higher education, the legislation includes a bill to require publishers or manufacturers of printed instructional materials for college students to provide them in electronic formats and make them available for purchase for students with disabilities and requires that the electronic version is available at a cost comparable to the printed version (A.7251). And to support New Yorkers financial security, the package also includes bills to expand job opportunities by establishing a small-business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities and increase the allowable maximum account balance for the New York Achieving a Better Life Experience (NY ABLE) Program (A.7475, A.7473). NY ABLE allows New Yorkers with disabilities and their families to save money in tax-advantaged accounts without impacting their eligibility for federal benefits.
Steck also helped pass a measure to require local social service districts, after considering certain factors, to give controlling weight to a recipient/applicants regular physicians opinion when determining potential work limitations or exemptions due to a disability (A.4236). Steck also supported legislation to make voting easier for New Yorkers with disabilities by providing early access to election ballots (A.163). And to ensure New Yorkers with disabilities are protected during emergencies, Steck helped passed a measure to require counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster (A.3923).