Improving access to New York City agencies, services for New Yorkers with disabilities.
In April we told you about a group of new laws aimed at improving access to New York City agencies and services for New Yorkers with disabilities. One of these, Local Law 27, requires every City agency to have a disability service facilitator – someone whose job it is to serve as the primary contact for people with disabilities and to help make sure they receive the services they need and are entitled to.
When this law was passed I was a bit skeptical that many City agencies would actually hire these people promptly. Happily, I was wrong. Twenty-eight agencies now have the mandated disability service facilitators. This includes a few, such as Chris Noel at the Parks Department (who is also a former ICS staff member), Quemuel Arroyo at the Department of Transportation, and Ted Finkelstein at the Commission on Human Rights, who were already in place before Local Law 27 was passed.
The fact that there are now 28 agencies with disability services facilitators is really good news because, taken together, they represent improved access to an enormous range of information and services.
For example, having a disability service coordinator at the police department is really important because part of the job is not only helping members of the public, but helping staff become more aware of how to interact with people with disabilities, something members of police forces everywhere are continually in need of.
The Department of Small Business Services is something everyone interested in owning their own business should have access to. The agency provides outstanding, free assistance; everything from writing a business plan to financing and contract review, as well as free courses in skills such as bookkeeping and marketing. With a disability services coordinator in place, everything the agency offers should be accessible to people with disabilities who are interested in starting a business.
The Fire Department is another important example, as many New Yorkers have disability-specific needs and concerns about how to protect themselves and their homes from fire. In fact, in a recent meeting of the Civics League for Disability Rights, members were discussing the common problem of smoke alarms being out of reach to people who use wheelchairs – something that sounds small but that could actually mean the difference between life and death. If you have such a concern, now there is someone you can call.
A full list of disability service coordinators at New York City agencies, along with their phone numbers and email addresses, is available here. In 2017 we’ll be reaching out to interview as many of these folks as possible and will tell you what we learn right here on this blog. Also, Sanja Stegich, disability service coordinator at New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development, has agreed to come speak with members at the January 13th meeting of the Civics League, which is open to everyone. We hope to see you there.