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OPINION: Advocating for the Disability Community Coming out of COVID

By Will Barclay

Date:

The needs of every single New Yorker must be accounted for as we continue to transition out of lockdown and into more regular activities. The disability community, which was hit particularly hard by both the physical and emotional impacts of COVID-19, must get the care and attention they deserve as we approach what appears to be the light at the end of the tunnel.

To that end, members of the Assembly minority conference, including Assemblywoman Melissa (Missy) Miller, who has advocated fiercely for the disability community, have asked for revised guidelines on visitation procedures for those in congregate-care and group-home facilities. Despite cases where both residents and family members are fully vaccinated, there are still many instances where residents are being forced into two-week-long lockdowns even if they have not had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Residents of these homes have already endured so much; it is cruel and unfair to continue to deprive them of much-needed contact with their loved ones simply because the guidelines governing these facilities are outdated. If a resident is vaccinated and a family member is vaccinated, there must be a way for them to safely spend time together.

The pandemic is not gone, but the widespread availability of vaccines and the implementation of health and safety best practices have proven effective. The physical health of these patients is extremely important, but so, too, is their mental health. Those needs must also be met.

Our conference has also recently pushed to pass “Todd’s Law,” an important protection for those with disabilities and the elderly. The law is named in honor of Todd Drayton, who has Down syndrome and cerebral palsy. Todd’s critical medical equipment — a custom-made wheelchair and oxygen tank—was stolen from his driveway in December 2018. “Todd’s Law” would increase the penalties for someone who has maliciously taken advantage of an individual and stolen property necessary for their daily living.

Sadly, [recently], the proposal was blocked by Assembly Democrats, preventing it from advancing for a vote. We believe that this sort of abhorrent crime must have a penalty commensurate to the act. Taking away someone’s lifeline for financial gain is despicable, and the current law does not account for the true value of this equipment. We are hopeful the majority reconsiders this proposal and gives it the vote it deserves.

 Our conference has remained steadfast in its commitment to ensure the safety, well-being, and fair treatment of all New York residents. We will continue to advocate on their behalf and work to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to overcome the unique challenges COVID-19 has presented.        

William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us. 

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