from the NYS Assembly
Task Force on People
with Disabilities

Kevin A. Cahill, Chair     Sheldon Silver, Speaker

Kevin A.


NYS Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities


A Message from the Chair...

November 2003

Dear Friend,

As this year draws to an end, I want to thank New York’s disabilities advocates for the perseverance and hard work they demonstrated, and for recognizing the Task Force on People with Disabilities with citations from noteworthy disabilities organizations including the Commissioner Chris Ashman Award from the Action Toward Independence and the Public Servant Award from the New York State Independent Living Council, Inc. 2003 was a very successful year for the disabilities community. The highly-anticipated start-date of New York’s Medicaid Buy-In program finally was determined, and has since gone into effect (click here for more information).

In addition, disabilities advocates played an instrumental role in the establishment of the Assembly’s position on implementing the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in New York. Be assured that the Assembly is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities have full, equal access to voting places and that new voting machines purchased in the future are suitable to that purpose.

The Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) started meeting to fulfill its obligation to develop and oversee the implementation of a comprehensive plan to ensure that people of all ages with disabilities receive the services they need in the most integrated settings possible, as mandated by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead vs. L.C. decision. For more information on the work being done by the MISCC, please contact our office at the telephone number listed below.

We now need to focus our ambitions on ensuring that the Medicaid Buy-In program and the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council work effectively, and that state HAVA legislation becomes law and is implemented appropriately. Because the scope of the ADA has been under scrutiny for quite some time, we need to focus on another priority -- gaining the support of the Senate and Governor for legislation that the Assembly consistently passes (A.5468, A.5469 and A.5511, click here for more information) guaranteeing that the protections originally secured under the ADA are enforceable on the state level as well as under federal laws and rules. I look forward to seeing many of you when the new Legislative Session begins and to work on these very critical issues. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me.


Kevin A. Cahill, Chair
Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities


For More Information Contact...
New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities

Kimberly T. Hill, Director
Agency Building 4, 13th Floor Albany, New York 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4592 Fax: (518) 455-4731


Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day

The New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities and the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities co-sponsored the annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day (LDAD) on June 11, 2003 in Albany.

Over 60 organizations that serve the disabilities community displayed exhibits to provide information and demonstrate the services and opportunities that are available to people with disabilities.

Also featured was an exhibit under the sponsorship of Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital of artwork done by people with disabilities and a technology fair which displayed the latest high-tech products being made available to disabled persons. Included in the technology exhibit was Johnson and Johnson’s iBOT, a revolutionary new wheelchair that, among other things, can climb stairs and move through sand.

And for the second year in a row, four seminars on issues of interest to people with disabilities were also held. The seminars were held on: "The Dos and Don’ts of Delivering Public Hearing Testimony," "Making Elections Accessible in New York," "Navigating the Medicaid Buy-In Process," and "The Status of Olmstead in New York."

2003 LDAD Legislation Agenda
As part of LDAD tradition, the Assembly passed a package of legislation aimed at making the lives of people with disabilities easier. This year’s legislative package included:

  • A.3215 (Sanders) - Directs establishment and administration of a statewide program for telephone access for all New Yorkers, including the hearing and visually impaired.
  • A.4503 (Stringer) - Requires public officers and bodies to provide interpreters for the hearing impaired at public hearings under certain conditions.
  • A.5468* (Cahill) - Clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York state human rights law in the area of government services to be consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the division of human rights.
  • A.5469* (Cahill) - Clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York state human rights law in the area of public accommodations to be consistent with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and the current policies and practices of the division of human rights.
  • A.5471 (Cahill) - Requires access aisles of handicapped parking spaces to be marked with a sign and diagonal stripes.
  • A.5473 (Cahill) - Requires polling places to be accessible to physically disabled voters.
  • A.5474 (Cahill) - Provides that the lease, lease-purchase or rental and maintenance of a motor vehicle shall be included within vocational rehabilitation services for the disabled.
  • A.5476 (Cahill) - Requires access aisles of handicapped accessible parking spaces to be at least eight feet wide.
  • A.5477 (Cahill) - Requires the commissioner to include information regarding wheelchairs in the department of motor vehicles’ annual summary of motor vehicle accidents.
  • A.5479 (Cahill) - Phases in requirement that retail stores having off street parking must provide handicapped parking spaces.
  • A.5511* (Lifton) - Waives state’s sovereign immunity to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
  • A.6232 (Sanders) - Extends the wheelchair warranty to all wheelchairs, whether motorized or not.
  • A.6240 (Stringer)/S.3280 (Velella) - Includes persons with disabilities within the definition of head of household for purposes of the senior citizens’ tax abatement for rent-controlled and regulated property.
  • A.6528 (Kaufman) - Permits award of reasonable necessary transportation, other costs for consumer to attend presentation by other party at motorized wheelchair alternate arbitration.


Medicaid Buy-In Goes Into Effect

After months of patiently waiting, New Yorkers with disabilities can enter the job market without having to fear the loss of their Medicaid benefits. Finally, after a great deal of work and advocacy from disabilities communities statewide, New York’s new Medicaid Buy-In program finally went into effect on July 1, 2003, after being temporarily delayed by the Governor.

Initially slated to begin on April 1, 2003, the program allows people with disabilities to "buy into" the federal Medicaid program by paying premiums based on income, while participants earning less than $25,000 a year will not have to pay a premium. All other individuals will have to pay a premium based on the sliding scale set forth in this legislation.

Persons eligible to participate in this program must:

  • have a disability that meets the medical criteria to qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI),
  • be working in a paid position, either full or part-time,
  • be a New Yorker between the ages of 16 and 64,
  • have a gross annual income of no more than $46,170 (250 percent of the federal poverty level) for a household of one ($61,870 for a household of two), and
  • have non-exempt resources that do not exceed $10,000.

Applications are now being taken from individuals who are interested in enrolling in the Medicaid Buy-In program. Those interested should contact the local Social Services office for further information. As we go to press, the Department of Health advises that over 600 people have already submitted applications for the program.

The Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities recognizes how important it is for people with disabilities to be able to work and still maintain Medicaid benefits. We understand that, unlike most other insurance plans, Medicaid pays for such life-sustaining items as home health care, durable medical equipment and prescriptions.

People with disabilities should not be forced to turn down jobs because of the risk of losing their health benefits. It has been a priority of ours to ensure that every New Yorker receives the quality health care they need while leading independent lives.

While the Task Force is very much encouraged that this important program is finally underway in New York, still more needs to be done to allow people with disabilities to work at a competitive wage and save for the future. For that reason, A.7523 (Cahill), which is a Medicaid Buy-In Enhancement bill, was recently introduced.

This legislation would expand the current program to allow people with disabilities to earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, exclude spousal income when determining a person’s eligibility and increase the non-exempt asset cap from $10,000 to $40,000. Be assured that the Task Force will remain firm in its commitment to these improvements as the 2004 Legislative Session approaches.


Other Important Disability Legislation

The majority of the legislation related to disabilities passed the Assembly in honor of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day. Other measures of interest to people with disabilities passed this session include:

  • A.3863 (Weisenberg) - Requires ATMs to use both audio and visual system of relaying messages to its customers.
  • A.4227(Klein)/S.4343 (Leibell) - Provides for donations to spinal cord injury research trust fund to be made via a personal income tax return form, without reducing the amount of tax due.
  • A.6614 (Sanders) - Requires the department of health to promulgate rules and regulations concerning hard of hearing patients and others.
  • A.8985 (Gantt)/S.4921 (Libous) - Includes parking in a handicapped parking access aisle in violations subject to a fine. (Chapter 613)

Your ideas for legislative initiatives are important to us. Please drop us a line and share your thoughts.


Interpreters in Hospitals Public Hearing

On November 24, 2003, the New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, in conjunction with the Committee on Health and the Legislative Task Force on New Americans, is hosting a public hearing on interpretation and translation in hospitals.

The purpose of this hearing is to address the concerns of the millions of New Yorkers who are hearing or vision-impaired, and the approximately 4.2 million foreign-born New Yorkers who might speak other languages. The Assembly recognizes that without adequate interpretation services, many of these New Yorkers face barriers to health care that can prevent patients from getting adequate and appropriate care, particularly primary and preventive care. Failure to seek such care, and the medical errors that result from faulty interpretation, have serious and expensive consequences for patients, providers and taxpayers.

Any questions regarding this hearing may be directed to Michael Rabinowitz of the Assembly Health Committee staff at 518-455-4941.


EPIC for People with Disabilities

The Task Force on People with Disabilities has received numerous requests for the Legislature to extend the savings offered in the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program to the disabilities community. The Task Force thoroughly agrees that people with disabilities, many of whom need several medications but often live on fixed incomes, should also benefit from this cost-saving program.

It is a top priority of ours to fight for this critical need when the 2004 Legislative Session begins. The Task Force is joining forces with Assemblyman David Koon, who introduced A.3914 (S.1567/Seward), which makes certain persons who are eligible for or receiving social security disability insurance benefits eligible for EPIC. We look forward to working with many of you on this mission.


2003 LDAD Photos

Assemblymember Cahill watches Gregg Howard, Vice President of Reimbursement, at Johnson & Johnson Independence Technology, demonstrate the new iBOT wheelchair.

Brad Williams, Executive Director of the New York State Independent Living Council and Dennis Boyd, Senior Staff Attorney for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, discuss "Making Elections Accessible in New York."

Bruce Darling, Executive Director of the Center for Disability Rights, addresses the crowd at "The Status of Olmstead in New York" seminar.

New York State Assembly
[ Welcome Page ] [ Committee Updates ]