WBFO: NYers with Disabilities Demonstrate at Capital, 40 Are Arrrested; Employment Emphasized

NYAPRS Note: Over 300 New Yorkers with disabilities came to Albany last Wednesday and staged a determined and spirited demonstration near Governor Cuomo’s offices to call on the Governor to keep his promises to the state’s disability community, an event marked by the arrest of 40 protestors.
You can see video footage of the demonstration at https://youtu.be/fFG5Z1lZ2BU.

The demonstration was organized by the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL), ADAPT and the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Association of New York State, who released a series of recommendations to support people with disabilities and community integration that they say have all been ignored by the Governor.

The recommendations included reinstatement of the Office for the Advocate for People with Disabilities, higher wages for Consumer Directed Personal Attendants and home care, increased funding for Independent Living Centers and implementing the Governor’s Employment First initiative, which set a goal of raising employment among New Yorkers with disabilities by 5%.Recognizing that many New Yorkers with disabilities fear losing their healthcare benefits upon returning to work, NYAPRS joined with our friends in the disability and AIDS/HIV community in 2002 to win adoption of the state’s Medicaid Buy-In for Working People with Disabilities. But enrollment in the Buy-In program has lagged for some time and, accordingly, higher enrollment rates were identified as a top priority by the NYAPRS Employment Committee, which is chaired by Maura Kelley of Western NY Independent Living (WNYIL).

NYAPRS has regularly pressed for higher MBI enrollments at regular meetings of the state’s Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC). At last November’s MISCC meeting, an update on this initiative underscored that “individuals (continue to) report difficulties in completing the enrollment process in MBIWPD through local departments of social services and New York City Human Resources Administration (HRA).

At the same time, it appears that a sizeable percentage of both recipients and providers of mental health services continue to be unfamiliar with the Buy-In program, leading advocates to call for a strong education program for county officials, consumers and providers.

Several NYAIL members are also members of NYAPRS, including Western NY Independent Living, Northern Regional Center for Independent Living, Independent Living Inc., Westchester Independent Living Center and Resource Center for Independent Living.

Disabled WNYers Arrested During Protests to Call for Governor's Support
By Avery Schneider WBFO March 8, 2017

Approximately 300 advocates for the disabled traveled to Albany on Tuesday, seeking a meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office. The group believes the governor has failed to follow through on promises to support the needs of the disabled in this year’s budget.

Among those 300 were 30 from Western New York Independent Living.

Peaceful attempts to gain an audience with the governor’s staff such as this have been made before, and Todd Vaarwerk, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for WNY Independent Living said they are often responded to with a meeting to discuss how issues can be worked into the budget process. The response on Tuesday afternoon was different.

“We were basically told by the governor’s staff, ‘There’s really nothing we can do. Come and see us about next year’s budget,’” said Vaarwerk. “We’re not talking about things that are minor issues. We’re talking about the things that relate to the health, safety, and independence of people with disabilities.”

…Disappointed with the results of their initial attempts, advocates tried again to gain access.

“There was an attempt to kind of go back and get a meeting with a staffer to kind of redraw these issues again,” explained Vaarwerk. “We apparently weren’t let in the door that would allow them into the offices and I think that’s where the escalated version of the protest started.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, four out of Vaarwerk’s group of 30 were arrested following a display of chanting, singing and waving signs. As those arrested were marched out of the offices one by one in the custody of state police, Vaarwerk estimated his four, and as many as 36 others, would be ticketed for trespassing and released.