NYS DISABILITY COMMUNITY POLICY PRIORITY VISITS

By Erin Vallely, ATI Advocacy Specialist

Introduction

In May, Access to Independence (ATI) and the Finger Lakes Independence Center (FLIC) held meetings with Assemblywoman Kelles (D-125) and Assemblyman Lemondes (D-126) to discuss important disability policy proposals.  Staff and community members advocated for many of NYAIL’s policy priorities and both assembly members shared valuable insights to their work.  While the session is still under way, it’s unlikely the priorities will be passed because they have not made it out of committee.  However, many of these bills will be carried over from this year to the next session, and are important to know about. 

Disability Legislative Priorities

  • Access to Home Programs Data – These programs provide low- and medium-income disabled individuals with grants for home accessibility projects, such as ramps, and accessible bathroom and kitchen renovations. However, people regularly struggle to use the program and are put on long waiting lists. 9631 / S.8209 seeks to require annual data reports on the Access to Home programs for the previous year to examine and improve the efficiency of the programs.
  • Minimum Housing Accessibility Regulations – Accessible and integrated housing options for disabled individuals is critical to our ability to live independent lives in our communities. However, new housing units are still frequently built with significant barriers to accessibility. 2247 / S.942 seeks to establish minimum accessibility requirements, including accessible entrances and bathrooms, for housing builders who receive state or federal money for the projects.
  • Homecare Services Data – While the lack of homecare workers is well documented, there is no collectively reported data related to usage of home care services in New York State. This makes it difficult to have accurate information about the number of individuals receiving home care services across programs, the type of home care services being provided, and the average number of hours authorized across all recipients during the previous reporting period by type of service, payor, and county. A.8173C / S.7372B seeks to require the department of health to publish home care service usage data on the department's website on a quarterly basis.
  • Homecare Eligibility Standards – Assisting elderly and disabled individuals with everyday activities so that they can stay in their homes prevents the higher cost of institutional care. However, a 2020 law made it much harder for people to qualify for homecare services, and unfairly set different requirements for different diagnoses. 5367A / S.5028A seeks to repeal the current limitations on eligibility for homecare care services.
  • Accessible Transportation Expansion – Being able to access accessible transportation is crucial to elderly and disabled individuals' quality of life and ability to access the services they need. However, public transportation options are frequently inaccessible to people who live outside urban areas. 3181A / S.5092 seeks to expand accessible bus availability to at least three miles from any bus route or stop.
  • Subminimum Wage – Although the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against disabled workers, some disability providers employ people at "workshops" that pay far below the minimum wage. This practice devalues disabled individuals work and contributions, and keeps them in poverty. 3103 / S.1828 seeks to make it illegal to pay disabled workers less than minimum wage in any employment situation.

Get Involved!

While the session is nearly over, our advocacy cannot lose momentum.  In the coming months, we will continue to advocate for these, and other, policy issues to be reintroduced.  Here are some steps you can take to contribute to the disability community’s efforts.

  • Visit https://openstates.org/ to find your state representatives and contact information – send them an email, letter, or call to thank them for their support of disability legislative budget priorities during the session
  • Read more information about the policy proposals and consider what you want to advocate for during the next session

If you have questions about any of these policy changes, please do not hesitate to contact Erin Vallely at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  She can help you understand these issues, and brainstorm ways to get involved with disability advocacy efforts.