Assemblymember Cahill's Able Column
Task Force Plans on Addressing Issues Set
by Disabilities Community
February 2005

Happy New Year! The 2005 Legislative Session is now underway, and we in the State Assembly are ready to once again roll up our sleeves and fight to improve the lives of people with disabilities. We have many issues that we want to address this year, and we are counting on you to assist us in this mission. As we have proven time and again with such victories as the Medicaid Buy-In Program, the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council and the Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Medicaid Waiver, we can be successful when we work together towards a common goal.

As I have mentioned in previous columns, the Task Force on People with Disabilities establishes our yearly agenda based primarily on the issues that you, New York's disabilities advocates, set as priorities. So far, we have heard that the disabilities community is interested in tackling the lack of accessible and affordable housing, addressing election reform and reinforcing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections on the state level. The Task Force is committed to these priorities and has already taken initial steps to deal with these concerns.

To improve the stock of accessible and affordable housing, the Task Force is in the process of drafting legislation to end source of income discrimination, create a statewide accessible housing registry, create and enhance subsidies for home acquisition and modification and enforce federal housing standards on the state level.

Ensuring that New York's election system becomes accessible to people with disabilities as soon as possible is a Task Force priority. To that end, we will once again introduce a bill that requires polling places to be accessible to voters with physical disabilities. In addition, the Task Force will partner with Assemblymember Keith Wright, Chair of the Election Committee, on reintroducing a measure that establishes new standards for voting machines and ensures that at least one voting machine that includes accessible features is available in each polling place. We will also work with Assemblymember David Koon on past legislation that requires ballots for all elections to be available in Braille or large print when requested by a blind or visually impaired voter.

To reinforce the ADA on the state level, I am again sponsoring two measures to clarify the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York State Human Rights Law in the areas of government services and public accommodations. The Task Force will join forces with Assemblymember Barbara Lifton to reintroduce a bill to waive the state's sovereign immunity to liability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, restoring the rights of state employees to sue New York for damages due to violations of the ADA.

All of the above mentioned measures regarding election reform and the ADA have passed the Assembly in previous sessions. Please be assured that we remain committed to achieving all of these goals. I urge you to encourage the Senate and Governor to join us in our work. I look forward to working with you during the 2005 Legislative Session.

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