2020 ACBNY LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND

OF NEW YORK, INC.

AN AFFILIATE OF THE AMERICAN COUNCIL OF THE BLIND, WASHINGTON, D.C.

A SELF-HELP ORGANIZATION DEDICATED TO IMPROVING THE LIFESTYLE AND INDEPENDENCE

OF THE BLIND

2020 ACBNY LEGISLATIVE AGENDA

The American Council of the Blind of New York (ACBNY) is a volunteer organization. Any and all questions should be directed to Legislative Co-Chairs:

Meghan Parker, (914) 417-8651, mparker@ilny.org

or Ian Foley: (716) 892-1983,  ianfoley206@hotmail.com

ACBNY strongly supports The Infant Vision Information, Education and Wellness Act S2136 (Sanders) and A8843 (Taylor).

ACBNY joins the Executive Board of NYSCB in calling for the State to establish a mandatory infant/early childhood vision screening program so that vision-related deficits that can result in significant developmental delays can be detected and prompt referral for vision-related early intervention services can be made. New York State mandates such screening with respect to hearing, but astonishingly, there is no such mandate for vision screening. Yet tools exist, whether medical or educational, to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of untreated vision loss on the infant, his/her family, and community. This bill would create an advisory board within the Department of Health to advise DOH on the creation of a system to screen each newborn in the state for vision abnormalities and a system to educate parents of each newborn and infant on the merits of having vision screening performed and receiving follow-up care. Visual problems discovered during infant vision screening are often indicators of other neurological issues, including autism. We believe that vision screening requirements should explicitly cover both newborns and children up to two years of age, as the best approach to assuring that vision-related issues not readily susceptible to detection at or near birth can nevertheless be detected as early as possible in a child’s life.

ACBNY strongly supports A6875 (Lupardo) and S4695 (Persaud), establishing licensing requirements for two categories of vision rehabilitation professionals, licensed orientation and mobility specialists and licensed vision rehabilitation therapists.

As New Yorkers age, the number of persons with significant visual impairments is increasing. There is also an increase in the number of babies surviving prematurity, low birth weight, congenital conditions and diseases. They often experience multiple disabilities including vision loss.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialists provide people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired with instruction in the use of their remaining senses along with a prescribed white and red cane to enable safe navigation and independent travel in their environment. O&M specialists prepare people who are blind or visually impaired to attain mobility skills to qualify for a guide dog.

Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRTs) provide training in the reading and writing of braille, safe cooking techniques, child care, medication management, instruction in keyboarding and the use of adaptive and other technologies and skills that enable people who are blind to manage independently at home, work and in the community.

Licensure increases the number of qualified professionals who are specifically trained to meet the unique needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. Licensure assures the provision of quality services through regulation and examination of these professionals. Licensure promotes consumer safety and ensures that individuals who are blind have access to trained professionals who have received specialized supervised training in working with people who are blind or visually impaired.

This bill was passed unanimously by the NYS Senate and Assembly in the 2015 legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. This new version has been introduced, which addresses the concerns outlined by the Executive.

ACBNY strongly supports requiring counties to expand paratransit beyond ADA minimums.   A8515 (Steck). Also S510 (Kennedy).

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mandates all counties that have a fixed route system provide paratransit services to people with disabilities unable to take the fixed route bus. Service must be provided to locations within ¾ of a mile of the closest fixed route bus stop. While this is a minimum service, counties can and should provide transportation services to people with disabilities throughout their service area. As fixed routes get cut back, especially upstate, many people are left stranded with no transportation. As a result, blind people are too often isolated and unable to work, go shopping, or to church because they don’t have reliable transportation. There is a real need to ensure comprehensive paratransit services are provided throughout the State.

ACBNY strongly supports A9118 (Epstein) and S7643 (Skoufis), establishing goals for participation by individuals with disabilities with respect to state employment, state contracts, legislative employment, and judicial employment.

This legislation will help to employ people with disabilities in companies and organizations that contract with the State of New York, and help to level the divide of employment for people with disabilities in our state. ACBNY believes that supporting this legislation will enhance the state’s diversity goals while helping to employ qualified persons with disabilities throughout the state. ACBNY further supports this legislation because similar standards have already been enacted on the federal level. Incorporating legislation like this into the state will also assist companies and organizations who may want to pursue federal contracts as well.

ACBNY strongly supports re-establishing an Office for the Advocate for People with Disabilities. A9004 (Steck) and S7570 (Skoufis).

There is no single office that represents all people with disabilities, including blind people. However, New York State used to have the Office for the Advocate for People with Disabilities. This office, created under Governor Mario Cuomo, was responsible for advising and assisting the Governor in developing policies designed to help meet the needs of people with disabilities and serving as the State’s coordinator for the implementation of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (this would now include the Americans with Disabilities Act).

While blind people are served by the Commission for the Blind, this is a vocational rehabilitation organization, and does not have the same role in advising on policy development. Blind people need an office where we can bring access or policy concerns and who will advocate on our behalf. The Office for the Advocate would also help break down the very siloed disability service system by having one office that represents and understands the issues that impact people across the spectrum of disability.