Task Force on People with Disabilities
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself as the new Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities and thank Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for appointing me to this very important position. I would also like to thank Assembly Member Michele Titus for all of the hard work she did in her capacity as Chair of the Task Force before me. Long before my appointment as Chair of the Task Force, I have been advocating for disability issues. I strongly believe that inclusion, integration and independence of people with disabilities are priorities on which we must focus.
As a member of the Assembly Housing Committee and former Chair of the Subcommittee on Mitchell-Lama Housing, I am looking forward to focusing on expanding affordable, accessible housing options for people with disabilities. Furthermore, I am also interested in bringing attention to matters involving proper training for emergency service personnel regarding disability issues, concerns regarding construction safety in urban areas for persons with mobility difficulties, and many other issues.
As Chair of the Task Force, I am eager to get to work on many of the issues that are important to New York’s disability community. Since being appointed to chair the Task Force this past June, many people with disabilities, their families and advocates have already taken the time to meet with me and provide me with important information. Meeting with the people who are facing the challenges that the Task Force seeks to address is critical. That’s why I strongly encourage and invite New York’s disability advocates to meet with me either in New York City or Albany.
The 2010 Legislative Session will be challenging -- New York is still in the midst of a financial crisis. However, the needs of people with disabilities do not diminish when the state faces a budget shortfall. I look forward to working with many of you over the coming year in the effort to improve the lives of people with disabilities. As always, if you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my Task Force office at 518-455-4592.
Jonathan L. Bing, Chair
New York State Assembly
Task Force on People with Disabilities
The New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities and the Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities hosted the annual Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day (LDAD) on May 11, 2009, in Albany. The event was sponsored by Speaker Sheldon Silver, Minority Leader Brian M. Kolb, Assembly Member Michele Titus, Assembly Member Peter Rivera and Assembly Member Tom McKevitt. Harvey Rosenthal, Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, was presented with the annual “Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr. Advocacy Award,” which honors in the name of this legendary activist and supporter of disability rights.
As in prior years, over 50 organizations that serve the disability community displayed exhibits to provide information and demonstrate the services and opportunities that are available to people with disabilities.
Also, four seminars on disability issues were held on the following topics:
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:
Twelve students from Assemblyman Michael Cusick’s district received awards for their perceptive and creative entries into our annual elementary school poster contest.
As the Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, I am well aware of how concerned many of New York’s disability advocates are regarding the recent vetoes by the Governor of two important disability-related bills passed by the Assembly and Senate.
A.781-B, sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin, passed the Assembly in May on Disabilities Awareness Day and the state Senate on July 16. This bill clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability in services provided by public entities in New York State by making the State Human Rights Law consistent with Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Essentially, this bill imports Title II of the ADA into state law.
Furthermore, A.584-A, which requires polling places to be accessible to voters with physical disabilities and establishes basic accessibility guidelines to ensure consistency and encourage substantial compliance at polling sites, also passed the Assembly in May and the Senate on July 16. This measure, sponsored by Assembly Member Kevin Cahill, is critically important to ensuring polling place access because it eliminates the ability for waivers to be granted that have prevented for years polling sites from being required to be accessible.
New York’s disability advocates were thrilled when two of the Task Force’s priority bills passed both houses of the Legislature. This success gave us great reason to celebrate the hard work that we all do, and it provided us with the incentive we need to continue pursuing our goals. It is understandable that the vetoes of these two measures were a gigantic letdown to us all.
Please be assured that the Task Force and the sponsors are reviewing the veto messages and are working to revise the legislation in a manner that would satisfy the concerns raised by the Governor and meet the goals set by the original bills.
The Assembly held this hearing because people within New York’s disability community face unique challenges in the quest to secure housing that meets their very specific needs. Finding housing that is appropriately accessible and affordable has proven to be very difficult in many areas of the state, especially for people living on fixed incomes. The Committee and Task Force are examining the current state of housing services that are available to this population and considering innovative solutions to problems that would respond to existing needs in the current economic climate. We plan to take the information that we gathered from the testimony we received and use it to guide our policy and budgetary discussions so that people with disabilities can live in accessible and affordable housing in their own communities.
If you were not able to attend or submit testimony at the November 13th hearing on housing, yet you have information or suggestions that you would like to share, please feel free to contact my Task Force office at 518-455-4592.