New York Assembly Legislation Package Passed

NY Assembly Legislation Package Passed

Article By John T. McDonald III  |  Member New York State Assembly  |  January 30, 2020

Yesterday the New York State Assembly  passed a legislative package to bolster anti-discrimination protections for New Yorkers with disabilities and improve their access to vital resources in recognition of this year’s Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day on Jan. 29.

Each and every one of us has the right to live our lives with dignity and to be treated with respect – that doesn’t change for New Yorkers with disabilities. This legislation helps ensure that individuals with disabilities are given every chance at success, can live as independently as possible and have access to the support and resources they deserve.  Below is a listing of the package of bills I was pleased to support.

 

Strengthening disability rights

To protect an employee’s ability to defend themselves against injustices, the Assembly passed legislation that would restore the rights of state employees to sue New York State for damages due to violations of 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). Additionally, to help ensure individuals with disabilities have equal opportunities in their communities, a measure would re-establish the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.9004).

Far too often, New Yorkers with disabilities face roadblocks that hinder their ability to participate in public events. That’s why the Assembly legislation includes a measure to require public officers and public bodies to provide interpreters and assistive listening devices for deaf or hard of hearing individuals at public hearings under certain conditions (A.3385-A). Another bill would clarify that “reasonable accommodation” to enable a person with a disability to use and enjoy a dwelling includes the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A.7331).

 Improving job and housing opportunities

Unfortunately, people with disabilities are often judged too quickly and not given a fair shot at a job, even if they are the most qualified candidate. Employers should look past the disability and give everyone equal consideration.

To that end, the Assembly passed a bill that would establish a small-business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities (A.8996).  Legislation that would encourage more accessible housing options by creating a tax credit for new or retrofitted principal residences that are universally designed to be accessible and adaptable housing (A.9005) was also passed.

Meeting public assistance and emergency preparedness needs

The Assembly’s legislative package also addresses the unique challenges New Yorkers with disabilities face when seeking public assistance and during emergency situations. This includes bills to:

  • require local social services districts, after considering certain factors, to give controlling weight to a recipient/applicant’s regular physician’s opinion when determining potential work limitations or exemptions due to a disability (A.8994); and
  • aid localities in preparing for and responding to disasters by requiring counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a voluntary confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities who may require evacuation assistance and shelter during a disaster (A.3923).  This is something the Albany County Sheriff’s department has been maintain for years and I believe a effective resource in case of emergency.

These bills are the result of grassroots efforts by the hardworking advocates and organizations in the disability community. Working with these stakeholders, we were able to craft policies that truly benefit everyone and address the complex needs of New Yorkers with disabilities.  Our work is not done but I do believe this package is another step in the right direction.

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