Skoufis: Disabilities Awareness Day Legislative Package Expands Opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities
Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) announced he helped pass a legislative package to combat discrimination against New Yorkers with disabilities and make vital resources more accessible.
“I’m fighting to make sure New Yorkers with disabilities can live their lives with the dignity and respect they deserve,” said Skoufis. “This legislation strengthens protections and brings us closer to true equality. Absolutely no one should be held back or denied opportunity because of a disability.”
As chair of the Task Force on People with Disabilities, Skoufis hosted Disabilities Awareness Day and authored a measure that re-establishes the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.10706). The office would provide a much-needed voice for New Yorkers with disabilities to ensure they receive services and support to live independently within their communities, noted Skoufis.
Skoufis also introduced legislation to require that owners of high-rise buildings institute an emergency evacuation plan for individuals with disabilities working or living in the buildings and ensure the plan is available to emergency personnel (A.10201). Another measure, which Skoufis helped pass, requires counties with local emergency management plans to maintain a confidential registry of residents with disabilities who may need assistance or shelter during disasters (A.6865).
In addition, he co-sponsored legislation to ensure New Yorkers with disabilities can exercise their full rights under federal law, including 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.2546). This allows state employees to sue when these laws are violated, protecting employees’ rights while giving them recourse if they face discrimination, noted Skoufis.
To help combat the higher unemployment rate for New Yorkers with disabilities, Skoufis also helped pass a measure to provide tax credits to small businesses who hire individuals with disabilities to work at least 35 hours a week for a year or more (A.1369-A). The credit provides $5,000 for a qualified employee, up to $25,000. Another measure requires that agencies determining work requirements for public assistance consider a physician’s opinion regarding the applicant’s abilities (A.3045). The package also includes a measure establishing the New York State Interagency Coordinating Council for Service-Disabled Veterans to help connect veterans with disabilities to vital state and local resources (A.5931).
Further, the package includes a measure that clarifies that “reasonable accommodation” for housing includes the use of a service animal (A.7283). To help New Yorkers who need individually configured equipment, known as complex rehabilitation technology (CRT), such as a customized wheelchair, the Assembly passed a measure to cut red tape to qualify for CRT for Medicaid patients and expedite new CRT billing codes (A.10604). These measures help New Yorkers lead lives with greater freedom and more opportunities, noted Skoufis.
Last year, Skoufis authored a new law that ensures students with disabilities can participate in their high school’s graduation ceremony, recognizing that these students may not have been able to follow a traditional educational path but still deserve to be honored for their achievements