New York builds upon legacy of federal Americans With Disabilities Act with new state laws

ALBANY — Gov. Hochul signed a package of bills Tuesday meant to improve access to services and strengthen the rights of New Yorkers with disabilities.

The governor was joined by lawmakers and advocates at a Manhattan signing ceremony honoring the 32nd anniversary of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in the US

“This is a journey to make sure that everyone’s rights, everyone’s civil rights, everyone’s human rights are protected,” Hochul said during the event at the CUNY Graduate Center. “It’s also a day to celebrate a pivotal moment in American history if there’s any issue that comes to our attention where a wrong needs to be righted, we will take the pen and do just that. And that is what today is about.”

Among the new measures enacted Tuesday are laws that will expand decision-making power for people with intellectual, developmental, cognitive and psychosocial disabilities and see the creation of a new ad campaign to combat the stigmas and stereotypes.

The first bill bolsters a successful pilot program that allows disabled New Yorkers to use supported decision making instead of guardianship when they reach adulthood, allowing and encouraging them to take a more active role in choices about their own lives.

According to the bill language, the new law formalizes the legal process for an individual with intellectual and developmental disabilities to enter into a written agreement with “trusted persons” in their lives describing the settings in which they desire support, the kind of support they want , and how they receive that support.

“There should not be an automatic presumption that someone else has to make the decisions for them,” Hochul said. “And I’m glad we’ve evolved to that point today, but other than just saying it, let’s make it the law of the State of New York.”

Others bills in the package will replace the term “mentally retarded” in numerous sections of New York State law to more accurate terms such as with “people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.”

“These new laws will make our state more inclusive by combatting stigma and ensure those who need services have a voice in their care and life decisions,” said Sen. John Mannion (D-Syracuse).

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