Assemblymember Jaime Williams D-Canarsie, Georgetown, Mill Basin, Marine Park, Gerritsen Beach) last week announced sweeping legislation that she helped pass to bolster anti-discrimination protections for New Yorkers with disabilities.
The legislative package to improve access to vital resources for those with disabilities comes in recognition of last week’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,” said Williams. “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.”
Included in the legislative package are:
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).
The Assembly legislation also 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 including the use of an animal to alleviate the symptoms or effects of a disability (A.7331).
Additionally, the package includes improving job and housing opportunities through the establishment of a small-business tax credit for the employment of people with disabilities (A.8996).
On the housing side, Williams helped pass 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).
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).
“These bills are the result of grassroots efforts by the hardworking advocates and organizations in the disability community,” said Williams. “Working with these stakeholders, we were able to craft policies that truly benefit everyone and address the complex needs of New Yorkers with disabilities.”