Assembly Honors Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day with Passage of Legislation Expanding Access to Employment and Benefits

Speaker Carl Heastie and Committee on People with Disabilities Chair Rebecca A. Seawright today announced the passage of legislation in honor of Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day to improve the lives of people with disabilities across New York.

“It is our duty as lawmakers to ensure access to a good quality of life is expanded to all New Yorkers,” said Speaker Heastie. “Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day is a good reminder that we need to do more than just honor those with disabilities across our state, as we need to continue fighting to ensure they have equitable access to employment, healthcare and a good quality of life. This package will better the lives of millions of New Yorkers and work to make our state accessible to all.”

“As we work to honor Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, this package of bills provides the next step in the Assembly Majority’s effort to lower all barriers for people with disabilities across our state,” said Assemblymember Seawright. “As the chair of the Committee on People with Disabilities, I understand how important these provisions are to ensuring all New Yorkers are afforded the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Included in this package is a bill that would expand the Developmental Disability Ombudsman Program to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities are aided in exercising their rights and bettering their quality of life through a toll-free telephone hotline, an interactive website and an in-person staff member (A1577A, Buttenschon).

“The Developmental Disability Ombudsman program will provide vital services to people with disabilities across the state,” said Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon. “This bill expands its responsibilities to provide new ways that individuals with developmental disabilities can find assistance and ensure they’re receiving all the help they need to better their quality of life.”

Also included in this package is two bills to expand and promote employment of people with disabilities. One bill establishes a taskforce to promote state agency employment for people with disabilities (A6397A, Burdick). Another bill passed today requires state agencies and contractors to report data on the employment of people with disabilities and their level of participation (A5815B, Epstein).

“Our state should be a model to others on how to equitably hire people with disabilities,” said Assemblymember Chris Burdick. “This bill will work to ensure we’re actively promoting employment to those with disabilities as we work to lower employment barriers and ensure all New Yorkers have access to a good paying job.”

“I proudly passed my bill A5815B bill which provides the much-needed data on how many of our state agencies have hired people with disabilities and what titles they hold so we can understand where expansion and resources are needed,” said Assemblymember Harvey Epstein. “People with disabilities experience significant barriers to employment and we must ensure New York State is leading on this issue. Our state is better when its employees reflect the diversity of its population”.

The package passed today includes legislation that waives the state's sovereign immunity to liability for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure New York is held to important standards in ensuring equitable access to all people with disabilities across the state (A6541, Kelles).

“As we continue working to lower barriers and provide equal access to all members of our community, we need to ensure our state is a model for others to follow,” said Assemblymember Anna Kelles. “This bill will ensure New York is not immune to claims that our facilities or agencies are not following decade old federal standards that make our state fair and equitable for all.”

This package also creates one commission to examine and make recommendations for the state on how to streamline services to people with disabilities (A1200, Epstein) and another to study the future of New York’s service delivery system for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (A9553A, Seawright).

The Assembly also passed a resolution to make May 22, 2024, New York State Assembly Legislative Disabilities Day in New York State.