Disability rights organizations are working on a new effort to create a state office that would focus on the issues and programs for disabled New Yorkers. They are working with Assemblyman David Weprin who is sponsoring a bill that would create a new Office of Community Living (A9479). The bill does not involve a merger of disability programs with the New York State Office for the Aging. A proposal last year to study such a merger did not result in a new combined agency that would have brought together aging and disability services. Senior advocacy organizations expressed concerns that the State Office for the Aging would lose its distinct focus and opposition was expressed at public hearings.
Disability rights organizations and service providers are concerned that their issues are basically without a home in state government and have been shifted among various state agencies since the Office for Advocate for the Disabled was dismantled several years ago and its functions assigned to different agencies.
Unfortunately, the proposal to merge disability programs and aging into a new Office for Community Living ended up pitting seniors advocates and disability advocates against each other. Now that there is a new proposal being made that does not involve merging aging and disability services, all groups should collaborate to strengthen advocacy efforts in state government that will promote the ability of all persons to live independently in the community. The Weprin bill should be reviewed and discussed among interested parties and amended if necessary as a vehicle to do that.