Disability rights are human rights. But right now New Yorkers with disabilities are facing a state that seems to work against them rather than for them. As Governor, Cynthia would work toward creating a more accessible state that works for all New Yorkers, not just the few.
Increase attendant wages
Attendant and home care services are essential for people with disabilities who want to live in their community. Attendant services allows people to stay in their own homes, raise their families, and go to their jobs. Attendants and home health aides perform services that are vital to everyday living, like bathing and toileting, cooking, clearing tubes and preventing pressure sores. Attendants are grossly underpaid. Most make minimum wage. Many are working mothers looking to support their families who are already struggling to get by. This has led to a severe shortage of attendants. As Governor, Cynthia will convene a wage board to raise wages for attendants.
Change Managed Care to Incentivize Community Living
The State’s most recent budget incentivizes institutionalization when it comes to managed care. If someone is deemed “permanently placed” in a nursing facility after being there for more than 3 months, MCOs are no longer responsible for the cost of their supports and services, and the state takes up the cost instead. This encourages MCOs to place higher needs disabled New Yorkers in institutional settings as a way of increasing profits. As Governor, Cynthia will incentivize community-based services through the introduction of a new high needs community rate cell. This would enable the small population of disabled New Yorkers whose services cost more to provide in the community the ability to stay in their homes without fear of forced institutionalization.
Accessible Housing and Visitability
We currently are in a crisis level shortage of accessible, affordable, integrated housing. It is to the point where it is a key factor in keeping many disabled New Yorkers from transitioning out of nursing facilities and into the community. No one should be stuck in an institution because the state refuses to ensure an adequate supply of accessible, affordable, and integrated housing.
As Governor, Cynthia would promote that all new housing projects include a required percentage of accessible affordable integrated units. This percentage should be decided by working with disability rights leaders. In addition to building new accessible housing we must also work to make existing housing more accessible. A great starting point for this is with a Visitability Tax Credit such as the one passed by the State Assembly and Senate for the three years.
This credit would go to supporting people in making their homes visitable. It could be used to widen doorways, build ramps, and other home modifications that would allow Disabled New Yorkers greater freedom to participate in the life of the neighborhood and community, would allow older New Yorkers to age in place and would make communities generally more inviting.
The Office of Community Living
Disabled New Yorkers have faced increasing pressure to force people with disabilities into nursing facilities, cuts to services, discrimination in housing and transportation — and yet currently there are no places in state government to address these specific problems. At the federal level, the Administration for Community Living has been an effective resource for our community. As Governor, Cynthia would create an Office of Community Living as a central junction to address the community’s issues at a state level.
Supporting The Disability Integration Act
Even though the right for disabled people to live in the community has been recognized since the landmark Olmstead v. LC case in 1999, many disabled people still struggle to get the long term supports and services (LTSS) that they need to live in the community. There is an institutional bias where many LTSS can only be accessed in institutional settings despite the fact that serving people in the community costs less money in most cases.
To answer this issue the disability rights community has worked crafted the Disability Integration Act (S.910/HR.2472) on the federal level. DIA would require that any insurer private or public, offering LTSS as a benefit, would have to make them available in the community. It is the next step forward in ensuring the civil rights of disabled Americans. As Governor, Cynthia will have New York comply with the requirements of DIA before it is enacted on the federal level.
Single-Payer Health Care & Universal Long-Term Care Services and Supports
Health care should be a right for all. Cynthia supports a single-payer health care system that guarantees long-term care services and supports (LTSS) to aging New Yorkers and people with disabilities by increasing access to services in their own homes and communities. A study recently released by the RAND Corporation confirmed that a unified, progressively financed system that replaces the current fragmented methods of paying for healthcare will achieve greater healthcare access for all residents of New York at lower cost than the status quo.
The vast majority of New Yorkers will pay less for healthcare coverage than they currently spend through premiums, deductibles, co-payments, and coinsurance (percentages of fees for services). The study also confirmed that the system could be truly universal by including a new long-term care benefit that meets the needs of older adults and people with disabilities.
The New York Health Act also has the potential to increase employment options for New Yorkers with disabilities. Right now, employers pay higher rates for insurance if they have higher usage, meaning that employers with disabled employees often have higher insurance rates and this has deterred some employers from hiring employees with disabilities.
In light of the Rand Corporation’s findings, Cynthia will work with the legislature to pass an expanded and comprehensive version of the New York Health Act, with a universal long-term care services and supports (LTSS) benefit from day one of its enactment.
Improve high school and college accessibility and treatment of students with disabilities
In New York State, the students with disabilities with a high school diploma is 76.8 percent, while the diploma rate for students with no disability is 89.3 percent. The diploma gap between students with disabilities and students with no disabilities is 12.5 percent. The diploma rate for people with disabilities in New York State is lower than the diploma rate for people with disabilities across the country.
One reason for the disparity in educational attainment between people with and without disabilities is the lack of accessible, integrated classroom settings. Bullying can encourage students to drop out of school. As Governor, Cynthia will improve reporting, monitoring and intervention to address school bullying.
The effect of a college education on likelihood of employment and earnings is greater for people with disabilities than for people without disabilities. It is particularly great for people with disabilities who are also black or Latinx. Obtaining a college degree has an impact on the likelihood of employment for people with any disability. Cynthia supports making colleges accessible for college students with disabilities and monitor whether schools are providing reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities. She also supports creating a bridge program for high school students with disabilities to go to college and increase resources aimed at achieving their diploma.
Improve employment for people with disabilities
In New York State, the employment rate for people with a disability is 29.5 percent, while the employment rate for people with no disability is 74.9 percent. The employment gap between people with disabilities and people with no disability is 43.3 percent. The employment rate for people with disabilities who are Black and Latinx is lower than it is for whites with disabilities.
As Governor, Cynthia will use the State’s purchasing power to encourage hiring of people with disabilities by State contractors and set an example for the private sector. When President Obama issued an Executive Order regarding employment of people with disabilities, it worked. This encouragement to hire people with disabilities has resulted in higher levels of employment in federal agencies. When this approach is taken at the State level, it could be expanded to include institutions that receive State funding, such as hospitals.
Cynthia will encourage businesses to include disability as an element of diversity for the purpose of hiring people with disabilities. She will also support required training and placement programs using state funding to achieve employment targets for people with disabilities. Creating more employment opportunities can help to address the poverty rate which leads to poor nutrition and health as well as homelessness.
Independent Living Centers
Independent living centers are nonprofits that serve people of all ages with all types of disabilities. Independent living centers provide benefits advisement related to food, health care, housing, vocational help, counseling, independent living skills assistance, self-advocacy training.
Independent living centers address disparities experienced by people with disabilities by advocating for progressive policies in the State.
These centers save funding for the State by preventing institutionalization and de-institutionalizing individuals who want to live in the community. Since 2001, centers saved the State more than $2 billion by helping individuals avoid or end institutional placements. For every $1 the State invests in independent living centers, transition activities alone saved the State more than $9 in institutionalization costs. Independent living center funding has been stagnant for a decade.
While overhead and salaries increase and demand for assistance increases, funding from the State has remained flat. Cynthia would increase Independent Living Center funding by $5 million and require a cost of living adjustment to permit centers to keep pace with inflation.
An Accessible Transit Network Within Ten Years
The subway is so often called the lifeblood of our city, and is what makes the city accessible to people all across the five boroughs. But at present, too many New Yorkers cannot ride the subway at all. Currently, New York has one of the least accessible mass transit systems in the entire world.
Only a small percentage of stations have elevators and even those elevators frequently break down. A modern subway should be open to all — riders in wheelchairs, with walkers, with strollers, with suitcases, and with bad knees and bad backs. The odds are high that at some time in each of our lives, we’ll all fall into one or more of those excluded categories. Our transit system should also consider the needs of people with vision and hearing disabilities and provide consistent audible and visual information about stops and service changes.
Like fixing the subway itself, creating an accessible system will not be cheap, easy or quick. But it’s what we owe each other. New York must move toward a 100 percent accessible transit system. It’s essential to making New York a fair city and enabling all New Yorkers to access everything the city has to offer, on equal terms with every other New Yorker.
A Fully Accessible Bus System Immediately
It’s time to end discrimination against bus riders with disabilities, enforce clear bus stops with cameras on board every bus, and guarantee that drivers are properly trained to respectfully serve all passengers. The MTA also needs to consider the needs of the elderly and people with disabilities when redesigning the bus network. On top of that, passengers with vision and hearing disabilities have difficulty using buses because stops are not consistently announced and lack digital displays to alert passengers who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Cynthia supports creating a fully accessible bus system that can serve all New Yorkers.
Increase Recruiting and Training Opportunities
Historically, employment in transit has provided a ladder to the middle-class to a highly diverse array of New Yorkers. However, one marginalized group remains under-represented in transit employment — people with disabilities. Increasing recruitment and training for disabled transit workers to operate buses and perform other jobs will integrate a perspective of people with disabilities into the institutional culture. Disabled transit workers on a variety of jobs will help ensure that their co-workers are properly trained and personally aware of the needs of disabled riders.
Paratransit on Demand for All Users
Not every New Yorker can safely and comfortably ride the bus. Indeed, 150,000 commuters are certified for Access-a-Ride services. But Access-a-Ride can barely be called service at all, given how poorly it meets riders’ needs. At present, riders must schedule trips in advance and, outrageously, it is often the riders who are penalized when drivers don’t show up on time.
Once on board, Access-a-Ride users can end up in citywide journeys of indefinite length, even missing scheduled appointments. This is no way for a state or its transit system to treat people with disabilities. Eligibility and enrollment rules should also be streamlined and made easier to understand. Access-a-Ride must be revamped to promptly and respectfully meet the needs of its riders so they can access not just their ride but the city itself. Cynthia supports efforts to extend the New York City pilot program to provide paratransit customers with rides in yellow or green taxis as part of its Access-A-Ride service. Cynthia also supports expanding paratransit services and support for mass transit systems statewide.
Ensure that our Board of Elections have the resources they need to fully implement accessible voting sites in every corner of the state. Despite the laws passed to ensure that voters with disabilities can vote just like their neighbors, currently 1 in 6 voters have a disability but only 1 in 4 polling places are accessible to them. Thirty percent of voters with disabilities report having difficulty voting because their polling place is not physically accessible; the paper ballot posted at the polling site is in tiny print; or there are no American Sign Language interpreters; and polling site workers are not trained to assist voters with disabilities as required by law.
When voters who are Blind go to the New York State Board of Elections website, they are confronted with a website that is not fully accessible. The State Board of Elections must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and assist in bringing local Boards of Elections into compliance with the law. We must ensure that our Board of Elections have the resources they need to give everyone access to vote. We also must ensure that language access is provided in accordance with the Voting Rights Act.