Over the past month, I met staff and visited centers offering New Yorkers with disabilities schooling, health services, job, socialization and skills training and so much more. For many in our state, those services are available close to home. They can take advantage of opportunities to learn at Wildwood Programs in Guilderland, find a job with help from Southern Tier Independence Center, or live independently in apartments at Arc of Onondaga while living, learning and working close to family and friends. In Rochester, people with disabilities are lucky to have one of the best resources in the country: the Center for Disability Rights. Sadly, for too many New Yorkers, those services still aren’t available.
As you know, I believe that people with disabilities need to be treated equally to those without. In fact, that’s exactly why I was eager to join many of my colleagues in Congress to push for the Americans with Disabilities Act—also known as ADA—back in 1990, because it makes sure that individuals with disabilities are not discriminated against and are rightfully integrated into society.
But we still have more work to do.
Right now, people with disabilities are too often denied the choice to receive care and support services in their homes and are therefore placed elsewhere, often in an institutional facility. This means that a person with a disability is not given the opportunity to live their life in a community with their loved ones.
So I wrote the Disability Integration Act – with help from the hard-working team from CDR – because we need to be doing everything in our power to make sure men and women with disabilities have the resources they need to live and thrive in the comfort of their own homes or the settings they choose.
Our bill ensures that individuals with disabilities who are eligible to receive institutional care must be given the option to receive the same kind of necessary, long-term services and support covered by their insurance at home or in the community they choose as they would in an institutional setting.
CDR, NCIL and other organizations in New York have done a great job of promoting the common sense civil rights policies that this bill would address. I specifically want to thank Bruce Darling, Adam Prizio, and Stephanie Woodward for their time and their tireless support in crafting this legislation with me and my team. They never stopped answering questions or asking “what’s next?” and their work will change lives.
In my neighborhood in Brooklyn I had a neighbor Joey, and Joey was in a wheelchair. Sometimes Joey’s mom would ask me to take care of him, and I did. I would take Joey outside, but Joey was limited to the four corners of our block. Why? There were no curb cuts, so Joey didn’t know the world beyond.
It left a real impression on me, and I never forgot him, not when we passed the ADA in 1990 and I fought for the implementation of curb cuts or curb ramps wherever a sidewalk crosses a curb, and not when the ABLE Act finally became the law of the land in 2014. Now, thanks to that bill, every disabled person and his or her family can qualify for key government disability aid regardless of their income or savings level.
But I am not one for resting on your laurels. I am pushing for even more reform, and that’s why I am proud to stand with CDR to urge Congress to take up and pass the Disability Integration Act. Many of you were in Washington last week to call for action, talking to members and staff about our work and what it means for those who couldn’t be there in person. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done.
Passing this bill is a no-brainer, and we won’t stop until Congress agrees. Men and women with disabilities in New York State and across the country need our support, and they need us to defend their basic rights. That’s why Congress must come together, take up this bill and send it to President Obama’s desk. They should do so without delay. Your neighbors and mine are counting on it. We won’t let them down.
Image Description: Senator Schumer speaking with the disability community and strong Disability Integration Act advocates in the Senate office building on April 13th. Hundreds of advocates with NAtional ADAPT surrounding Senator Schumer as he spoke. Photo taken from above.
Image Description: Senator Schumer posing for a picture with Stephanie Woodward and Adam Prizio, Advocacy staff at CDR, after a press conference at CDR’s Rochester office on April 11th. The image was taken outside of the building in front of the large atrium. They are posing next to a sign that has the list of organization names for the building (Center for Disability Rights, Regional Center for Independent Living, All About You Home Care). Senator Schumer is hold up a bright blue ADAPT t-shirt with the ADAPT logo on the front. Adam and Stephanie are both wearing that same shirt.