CDR Urges Cuomo to Sign the Visitability Bill

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Gregg Beratan

Dear Governor Cuomo:

There is currently a crisis level shortage of affordable, accessible, integrated housing in New York and the levels of accessible housing stock in general are unacceptably low. You have been woefully negligent in enforcing and living up to the commitments of your own Olmstead plan. Both the Senate and the Assembly have taken multiple opportunities to demonstrate their commitment to community living and you have been there to stand in the way each time.

18 years ago, the Olmstead decision recognized that disabled people have the right to live in the community, but you have consistently treated this right as an option that you can ignore at will. For the past two years now, you have vetoed a version of the Visitability bill (A.5950A Lavine and S.2411A DeFrancisco) that would have made our communities far more accessible. Each veto has had less merit  than the one before it. The first year you argued that there needed to be fiscal limits, so we placed a cap on the spending in the bill, last year you said Visitability needed to be a part of the budget and then you eliminated it from the budget despite the fact that it had the support of both the Senate and the Assembly. It is hard not to conclude that you either don’t care about New Yorkers with disabilities, or worse, you hold disabled New Yorkers in contempt.

A.5950A/S.2411A would provide homeowners with a tax credit up to $2,750 to assist with the cost of retrofitting a home to make it more accessible. This would have multiple benefits for all New Yorkers. It would allow New York’s aging and disabled populations to remain in our own homes (where a vast majority would prefer to remain) rather than forcing us into costly nursing facilities which often end up having an added cost to the state. It will also mean that more elderly and disabled people can visit our friends and family and become much more active in our own communities.

Accessibility is unfortunately an afterthought when building most homes. As Governor you are in a position to correct that by signing this bill which will enable people to add visitability features such as no step entrances, wider doorways, and an accessible bathroom to their homes. These are features that will benefit all New Yorkers, but none more than those in the Disability Community.

We at the Center for Disability Rights urge you to show your support for disabled and aging New Yorkers by signing A.5950A / S.2411A into law. Our community has waited long enough for your support; do not let another year pass!