Surrounded by advocates and elected officials, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed into law bipartisan legislation to create an Advisory Council On People With Disabilities. The Council, which will include members with disabilities and those representing organizations that serve or advocate for people with disabilities, will provide recommendations to the County Executive and County Legislature on how to better the lives of residents with disabilities in Nassau County.
The 15-member Council will assist in reviewing County policies, procedures, practices and programs and recommend legislation. It also will advise the County Executive and Legislature regarding funding priorities and capital projects that address the needs of County residents.
“In Nassau County, we are committed to protecting the fundamental rights of people with disabilities, including supporting their self-sufficiency and equal participation in society. Today, we’re taking an important step to ensure that residents with disabilities have a voice in County government and a seat at the table to make their voices heard. I thank the dedicated advocates made this effort possible, and I look forward to working together on behalf of the approximately 250,000 Nassau residents with disabilities,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.
Advocates greeted the creation of the committee as a mechanism that could allow for concerns to be raised and improvements to be proposed.
“It’s a major milestone here for Nassau County,” said Gina Barbara, an advocate for people with disabilities. “This advisory committee will be a voice for our community where we can share concerns in a more effective manner.”
“This is an important step towards inclusivity for all residents of Nassau to live their best life possible,” said Nadia Holubnyczyj, an advocate for people with disabilities. “We must remain vigilant to ensure best practices.”
Laura Nugent-Carter, an advocate for people with disabilities, said it’s crucial to include the disabled in policies related to providing access and meeting their needs. “It’s very important for us to have a voice,” Nugent-Carter said.
The Nassau County Office for the Physically Challenged serves as the disability rights advocacy agency for the County’s population of more than 250,000 adults and children with disabilities. This Council will create a new mechanism for those with disabilities and organizations serving them to provide input.
“The importance of the legislation to me is that it gives the broader disabled community an opportunity to speak in one voice,” said Matthew Dwyer, director of the Nassau County Department of Human Services’ Office for the Physically Challenged. “It allows for individuals to bring their personal and specific concerns to the committee and for the committee to determine how, in a broader sense, this may be applied to benefit the whole of the community.”
The Council, which will hold regular meetings at times and places that its members determine, also will periodically evaluate the County’s parks and preserves and recommend ways to improve accessibility for Nassau County’s disabled residents. Members of the Council will be appointed by the County Executive subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Each appointment will be to serve three years without compensation, although members can be allowed actual and necessary expenses incurred while performing their duties. Five members will be appointed upon the recommendation of the County Legislature Presiding Officer, three upon the recommendation of the Minority Leader and seven will have one or more disabilities or be representatives of organizations serving or advocating on behalf of people with disabilities.
Those seven members will have or represent organizations on behalf of disabilities including intellectual/developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, blindness/legal blindness, deaf or hard of hearing, mental health disability, autism or a learning disability. There will be one non-voting representative from a wide range of County offices and departments, including the Office of Mental Health, Chemical Dependency and Developmental Disabilities; Office for the Physically Challenged, Department of Social Services, Department of Parks, Department of Health, Department of Public Work and the Office of Emergency Management.
Elected officials joining the County Executive included Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Legislator Ellen Birnbaum.