2015-05-20 / Features

Weprin’s Disabilities Awareness Legislative Package


(L. to r., top row); Assemblyman David Weprin; Michael Seereiter, Recipient of the Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. Advocacy Award; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Assemblyman Mike Cusick; Kim Hill, Executive Director of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities. (L. to r., top row); Assemblyman David Weprin; Michael Seereiter, Recipient of the Dr. Henry Viscardi Jr. Advocacy Award; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie; Assemblyman Mike Cusick; Kim Hill, Executive Director of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities. In an effort to further improve the quality of life for New Yorkers living with disabilities, the Assembly passed a series of bills and legislative resolutions sponsored by Assemblyman David I. Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) on May 11. As Chair of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, Weprin said that these four bills and two resolutions are crucial for fulfilling the promise of independent living to those who have disabilities.

Assemblyman Weprin’s legislative package includes three bills designed to ensure top safety and emergency preparedness for New Yorkers living with disabilities, and one bill in relation to making absentee ballots available in Braille and large-print formats. Furthermore, in his legislative package, Weprin introduced a resolution proclaiming Monday, May 11, 2015 as New York State Assembly Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day (K.486), as well as another resolution designating July as Disability Pride Month (K.487).

These bills would:

 Provide that individuals who are blind or visually impaired be given access to Braille or large-print ballots if that person has given notice to the board of elections with at least 30 days left until election day (A.2104).

“People who are visually impaired should not have to rely on the assistance of others in polling places when Braille and large-print can be provided. Those who are not visually impaired may take for granted the privacy that is expected in the poll booth. Visually impaired people should be able to enjoy that same privilege,” said Weprin.

 Amend the executive law, in relation to requiring counties to maintain a confidential registry of people of all ages with disabilities for evacuation and sheltering during disasters (A.2658).

“In times of disaster, as we saw during Superstorm Sandy, it is vital that emergency service personnel are able to locate persons with disabilities who may have difficulty evacuating. This bill will greatly aid localities in preparing for and responding to disasters. Creating a standardized registry in counties will allow information to be sent out quickly and efficiently in an emergency and will help protect persons of all ages with disabilities,” said Weprin.

 Amend the public authorities law to establish the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Riders’ Council for People with Disabilities. New York City’s urban transit infrastructure has been operating at a level that is incredibly inefficient to the needs of everyday New Yorkers who by the consequence of birth and chance are disabled, said Weprin. This bill will specifically grant people with disabilities a seat at the table so they can advocate not only for themselves but all New Yorkers in making the current infrastructure system more equitable (A.5267).

“The deaf and hard of hearing are unable to understand train announcements and the visually impaired constantly have issues with platform gaps. Furthermore, there is no clear level of communication to warn people in wheelchairs when elevators and escalators are suffering malfunction problems at specific stations. It is astounding to think that there are no effective technological remedies to these problems. Up until now, no action has been taken, and that is very unfortunate,” explained Weprin.

 Further improve or implement evacuation plans for high rise buildings in relation to people with disabilities. To ensure compliance, a fine of $500 would be placed on the building owner if such an evacuation plan had not been developed. High rise building owners would have one year from the effective date of this bill to establish an emergency evacuation plan (A.2200).

“Many individuals with limited mobility or sight rely heavily on elevators to enter and exit high rise buildings. In times of emergency, however, elevators cannot be used. This leaves people with disabilities especially vulnerable in situations that are already incredibly dangerous. Given recent disasters such as Superstorm Sandy, the need for this legislation has become increasingly more obvious. Individuals with disabilities should not be left vulnerable in the event of a disaster or any emergency,” added Assemblyman Weprin.

Resolution to Designate Monday, May 11, 2015 as New York State Assembly Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day:

In an effort to provide New York’s disability community with an opportunity to educate legislators, their staffs, and the general public on these very important issues, the Assembly passed Weprin’s resolution (K.486), designating Monday, May 11, 2015 as New York State Assembly Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day.

Resolution to Designate July as Disability Pride Month:

This coming July 26 will mark the 25th anniversary of the passing of the American Disabilities Act (ADA), which extended the rights and protections granted in the Constitution to all Americans regardless of disability or impairment. To commemorate this historic moment, the Assembly passed Weprin’s resolution proclaiming July as Disability Pride Month (K.487).

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