CENTER FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS: IN SIGNING A PACKAGE OF LEGISLATION PRIMARILY ADDRESSING THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, GOVERNOR HOCHUL HAS ILLUSTRATED THE REASON SHE NEEDS TO SIGN LEGISLATION REINSTATING THE OFFICE OF THE ADVOCATE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday December 22, 2021
CONTACT: Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs, Center for Disability Rights, 518-362-7916 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rochester: The Center for Disability Rights expressed appreciation to Governor Hochul for signing a package of legislation that primarily impacts individuals with developmental
disabilities in New York, but pointed out that in signing this package of legislation, Governor Hochul has demonstrated the need for her to sign legislation which would
reinstate the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities (A.3130/S.1836).
The package of legislation signed by Governor Hochul would 1) allow a limited group of individuals with disabilities to have an essential support person accompany them while
they are hospitalized, 2) change who appoints members to the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council, 3) require the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council to evaluate New York State’s response to the COVID-19 state disaster emergency for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and 4) require the president of the Civil Service Commission to conduct a study on the employment of persons and veterans with disabilities by the state.
Although these bills address important issues, they are targeted to specific segments of the Disability Community and some of these policy matters could have been handled administratively instead of requiring legislative action.
“If we had an Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities, the administration could have proactively addressed these issues, including Disabled people’s need for assistance in the hospital, and they could have helped a lot more people,” said Bruce Darling, President/CEO of the Center for Disability Rights.
The legislation signed by the Governor only applies to people with communication-related disabilities (S.1035-A/A.4685). The legislation does not address the needs of
people with significant physical disabilities who have been fighting to get the state to allow their attendants to help them in the hospital for years because hospitals simply are not staffed to meet their needs. This means that some Disabled individuals have avoided important hospital visits because they were worried about not having their needs met.
“Even with a law preventing hospitals from excluding these workers, the state still refuses to pay attendants who assist Disabled individuals using Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Services while the Disabled individual is hospitalized,” added Darling. “The Hochul Administration would know that if it had an Office for the Advocate of People with Disabilities.”
The Center for Disability Rights points out that all of these pieces of legislation are linked to existing state agencies and offices. While it is important to evaluate New York State’s response to COVID-19 for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, the state should be looking well beyond that limited group. “Although the pandemic killed an unprecedented number of people in the state’s nursing facilities and other institutions, it impacted the daily lives of Disabled New Yorkers in a myriad of ways.
“Deaf individuals were repeatedly denied access to information during the pandemic,” said Brooke Erickson, CDR’s Director of Deaf Services. “The new law signed by Governor Hochul doesn’t address that. Our needs remain unaddressed, and no state agency is charged with correcting that.”
CDR is concerned that highlighting legislation which has a limited impact stifles the ability of advocates to address the broader issues. “Policy makers rightfully feel good about what they’ve done, but then make the erroneous assumption that the issue has been addressed,” added Erickson.
Although the Hochul Administration recently posted the position for a Chief Disability Officer, CDR points out that one person simply would not have the bandwidth or expertise to address all of these issues. “When Governor Hochul’s predecessor developed the concept of the Chief Disability Officer without an office or staff, it was clearly a token position,” said Rebecca Payton, CDR’s Director of Independent Living. “The Disability Community deserves better than token representation, and we clearly need more than that.”