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OPINION: Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day Promotes a More Inclusive New York

By Will Barclay


As legislators, Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day gives us a chance to pause and take stock of the ways we can better support New Yorkers with different levels of ability. Every New Yorker deserves an opportunity to grow and thrive, and for this reason it is critical we continue to advocate for the disability community and legislate their needs with vigor.

In addition to New York’s awareness campaign, May is also Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This year’s theme, “Beyond the Conversation,” is geared toward identifying next steps in the process to create more inclusive communities. This represents a great time for all of us to think about ways we can better serve those who may require special accommodations; and even better, it provides an impetus to take action.

The New York Legislature recognized Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day recently. As such, we passed several important pieces of legislation to improve and expand access to services utilized by the disability community as well as a bill to establish the Commission on the Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing. These are great steps toward making New York a more inclusive state, and I am looking forward to seeing how these measures materialize.

Unfortunately, a bill offered by the Assembly Minority Conference (A.3263, Jensen) was blocked by majority members before reaching the Assembly floor for a vote. The “Everyone Can Play” bill would establish a grant program to help local governments invest in and build accessible playgrounds and recreation facilities. In many cases, costs for local governments can be prohibitive, and creating a statewide grant program would help ensure the economic conditions of a given community would not stand in the way of accessible equipment for those who need it.

Our conference remains committed to creating a state that provides for everyone. The legislature recently put politics aside to honor the disabled community and recognize the importance of providing support, but actions need to be more than ceremonial. Reasonable measures to assist our friends and neighbors should transcend politics, rather than be mired down by political divides. To that end, we will continue to promote legislation that accounts for the needs of every New Yorker and strengthens our communities for citizens of every type. New York works best when we are all supported appropriately.                            

William (Will) A. Barclay, 54, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses all of Oswego County, as well as parts of Jefferson and Cayuga counties.