FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Contact: Alex Thompson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albany, NY – We congratulate Governor Hochul on signing a package of bills yesterday to help address some of the issues impacting people with disabilities. This is an encouraging sign, and an improvement over previous Governors. We strongly urge the Governor to create a systemic fix, and have a prospective vision, on addressing ongoing issues impacting people with disabilities on a daily basis. Fortunately, the Legislature also recognized the need for a systemic fix by unanimously passing A.3130/S.1836 to establish State Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities (OAPWD). We call on Governor Hochul to sign this bill into law as well when it is transmitted for her consideration.

In fact, the bills signed by the Governor yesterday are prima facie evidence of why the OAPWD is essential. If the OAPWD was in place, and had not been vetoed by Governor Cuomo in 2019, it would have undoubtedly advised the Governor on the issues addressed in these bills:

  1. The need for a support person to accompany a person with a disability to a hospital if necessary;
  2. Policies would have been in place throughout COVID so that the needs of people with disabilities would have been affirmatively addressed, and lives would have been saved., This would reduce the need for an after the fact DDC evaluation of what happened, and would have impacted all people with disabilities, not just the intellectually disabled; and
  3. The Civil Service Commission, and all other relevant agencies, would have been already advised on the need to improve the hiring of people with disabilities.

Governor Hochul said yesterday, "The bills I'm signing into law today will ensure people with disabilities are supported in health care, employment and beyond. Working together, we'll make sure our recovery from the pandemic includes every single New Yorker." We agree these bills are a step toward creating more supports, but it falls short of establishing systemic change like establishing an OAPWD would do to address ongoing, future critical needs, and time sensitive matters. The Governor can complete the circle and endorse prospective solutions by signing the OAPWD bill into law.

The OAPWD would serve as the state's coordinator for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, coordinate state activities to ensure that state programs do not discriminate against and are accessible to persons with disabilities, and ensure that such programs provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate. Additionally, the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities will represent the interests of the Disability Community in state government by reviewing proposed legislation and regulations to determine their impact on persons with disabilities and making constructive recommendations on them.

Meghan Parker, Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL): “We have been urging the State to re-authorize this office for several years now as a necessary replacement for the advocacy and services that have largely disappeared. Concerns about COVID-19’s impact on people with disabilities would have been prospectively addressed had the OAPWD been in place all along”.

“We expect Governor Hochul will recognize that the needs of the disability community have been largely ignored for the past decade, and she will sign this critical legislation as a first step to righting this wrong,” added Lindsay Miller, NYAIL’s Executive Director. “New York State should be the national leader in ensuring that the rights and access needs of disabled people are fully considered and addressed, and signing this critical legislation is an important first step.”

##

 https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-package-legislation-help-individuals-disabilities

About NYAIL – The New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) is a statewide membership organization of Independent Living Centers (ILCs), community-based not-for-profit providers of advocacy, services and supports for New Yorkers with disabilities of all ages. ILCs are controlled by, and largely staffed by, people with disabilities. NYAIL strengthens local Independent Living Centers and is a leader in the civil rights movement for all people with disabilities.


NEW YORK’S DISABILITY COMMUNITY CALLS ON GOVERNOR TO REINSTATE THE STATE OFFICE OF THE ADVOCATE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 13, 2021

Contact: Alex Thompson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 518-465-4650

The legislation now awaits Governor Hochul’s signature

(Albany, N.Y.) – Earlier this year, the New York State Assembly and Senate unanimously passed bills A.3130 (Steck)/S.1836 (Skoufis) to reinstate the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities into the New York administrative structure of agencies.

Originally established by Governor Mario Cuomo through Executive Order, the Office of the Advocate was intended to provide a formal voice within state government for New Yorkers with disabilities. The Office helped develop policies to ensure the State met the access needs of people with disabilities. The Office also served as the State’s coordinator for the implementation of Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and compliance with the June 22, 1999, United States Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. which concluded that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, the vital advocacy functions of this office were moved to the Justice Center, then ultimately dissolved altogether. While there are state agencies that address individuals with specific diagnoses, there is no state agency charged with meeting the needs of the Disability Community in general and large segments of the Disability Community are left without a state agency addressing their needs and representing their interests in state government.

A.3130/S.1836 addresses that problem. The Office of the Advocate will serve as the state's coordinator for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, coordinate state activities to ensure that state programs do not discriminate against and are accessible to persons with disabilities, and ensure that such programs provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate. Additionally, the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities will represent the interests of the Disability Community in state government by reviewing proposed legislation and regulations to determine their impact on persons with disabilities.

This bill passed in 2019, but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. The disability community is counting on Governor Hochul to reprioritize the needs of the disability community in New York State government once again.

Meghan Parker, Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) responded to news of the bill’s passage: “We have been urging the State to re-authorize this office for several years now as a necessary replacement for the advocacy and services that have largely disappeared. Re-opening and funding the Office of the Advocate has been a top legislative priority for the disability rights community and we are happy the Legislature has recognized how important this Office is to New Yorkers with disabilities and their families.”

“We expect Governor Hochul will recognize the needs of the disability community has been largely ignored for the past decade and will sign this critical legislation as a first step to righting this wrong,” added Lindsay Miller, NYAIL’s Executive Director. “New York State can be a leader in ensuring the rights and access needs of disabled people are fully considered and addressed and signing this critical legislation is an important first step.”

##


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 8, 2021

Let’s Creatively Use Available Federal Funds to Fix This

Statement from New York Association for Independent Living (NYAIL) Executive Director Lindsay Miller:

Over the past year, more than 15,000 people tragically died in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities due to COVID-19 and problems inherent with these institutions in keeping residents safe. This year’s state budget provided an opportunity to address this crisis and ensure it does not happen again by investing in home and community-based services. Nobody should be stuck in a nursing home who does not want to be there. Unfortunately, the final state budget turns its back on people with disabilities and seniors by maintaining the status quo when it comes to inadequately funding the programs we need to live at home, not in a home. Most astounding is the state’s unwillingness to fund Fair Pay for Home Care amidst a growing home care crisis.

New York’s Independent Living movement, along with many others, advocate for Fair Pay for Home Care to increase wages for home care workers to 150% of a region’s minimum wage. Independent Living Centers help prevent people from going into nursing homes, as well as assisting them to leave if they express an interest in moving back home. However, this work is now extremely difficult as people who are ready to leave a nursing home with housing and other services in place are not able to do so because home care workers are not available. Wages in other sectors like fast-food restaurants have increased while wages for home care workers have remained stagnant despite the vital nature and difficulty of the work. These essential workers kept thousands of New Yorkers safe and independent throughout the pandemic, but the state budget failed to ensure they are paid a living wage.

The state neglected several other opportunities to invest in keeping people safe and in their own homes, including: The Access to Home program, to provide home access modifications to allow individual to stay in their own homes and out of deadly institutions; Independent Living Centers, which provide essential advocacy and supports to help keep people in their own homes; and the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which serves as a resource and advocate for individuals living in nursing homes.

Independent Living Centers are seeing more and more people unable to leave institutions solely because they cannot get home care due to the aide shortage.  We expect this crisis will only worsen this summer when fast food workers earn $2.50 an hour more than most home care workers. There is more than $1.6 billion in federal funds available for home and community-based services to be distributed pursuant to a plan developed by the NYS Health Department. The state must use these resources to finance the Fair Pay for Home Care initiative so that there is an adequate workforce to keep people in their homes and out of dangerous institutions.

##