Public Health ∙ Housing ∙ Jobs
Supporting our Disability Communities
There are approximately one million New Yorkers, who identify as having a disability. New York’s disabled community is incredibly diverse and vibrant with so much to contribute to this city. As a father of a son who is on the Autism spectrum, Andrew Yang understands these issues personally. However, he also knows that the disabled community faces distinct challenges when it comes to finding accessible, supportive, and affordable housing; navigating an awfully inaccessible public transit system; finding good-paying jobs; interacting with law-enforcement; and receiving mental health care. The statistics are not good: 75% of subway stations are not accessible, 44% of the City’s shelter population have a disability, and even before the pandemic, 79% of people with disabilities in New York City between the ages of 16 and 64 were not employed. Recent reports from several NYC organizations that work with people with disabilities report that at least half of their clients with disabilities have lost their jobs or been furloughed during the pandemic. Moreover, the organizations that serve people with disabilities have also taken a significant financial hit as they struggle to fundraise and have lost lucrative contracts and funding, as State funding for programs for people with disabilities has been cut. Andrew Yang takes these statistics seriously and understands that disability intersects with all other identity categories. He also understands that like all New Yorkers, disabled New Yorkers need access to housing, high quality education, good paying jobs and reliable transportation. Often lack of access to these basic necessities — that many able-bodied New Yorkers may take for granted — exacerbates issues for disabled New Yorkers and can lead to a cycle of poverty. We must do more to improve city services and increase access to opportunities for all New Yorkers with a range of disabilities. Andrew plans to make this city a better place for his son and every other New Yorker living with a disability.
To address the distinct needs of the disabled community, a Yang administration will:
- Improve access to safe, quality accessible affordable housing;
- Make our transit system more accessible;
- Work with the disability community to increase opportunities to higher education and jobs;
- Guarantee that students with disabilities are supported by an equitable and responsive DOE;
- Ensure equity in interactions with law enforcement;
- Build a City government that is responsive to the needs of the disability community;
- Advocate for the health care needs of medically fragile adults.
To support the disability community in securing accessible, supportive, and affordable housing, Andrew Yang will:
Cut red tape for accessing community-based housing for the I/DD community.
With waiting periods averaging seven years and waiting lists of 11,000 people for few precious spots, New York’s residential opportunities are not serving this portion of the disabled community. This places the burden on aging parents to house their I/DD children. The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has only been offering placements for those in the “emergency need” category. However, this has contributed to unfilled vacancies when the care needs and behaviors of emergency need individuals are incompatible with the homes where there are vacancies. Leaving individuals suitable for these openings, but not deemed emergent, languishing on the waitlist, despite open beds. In order to maximize the housing opportunities for the City’s I/DD community, a Yang administration will advocate on the state level for simplifying the regulations governing the placement of disabled individuals, the improvement of waitlist transparency, and increased capital funding.
Expand eligibility for and awareness of the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE).
In New York City, 52.4 percent of people with disabilities spend more than one-third of their income on rent, a rate significantly higher than their non-disabled peers. The Disability Rent Increase Exemption Program offers a rent freeze for qualifying New Yorkers. If their rent goes up, the City pays the difference between their previous rent and the new rent. This program is available to individuals whose name is on the lease, receive federal disability benefits, live in a rent-regulated apartment, and have a combined annual household income of $50,000 or less. The City finances the program by providing the owner of the building credits against their real estate taxes. A Yang administration plans to expand this benefit in two ways. First, we would seek to expand the program to individuals living in apartments that are not already rent-controlled. If this proves bureaucratically infeasible, we would find ways to get more disabled individuals into rent-controlled apartments, in the first place, so that they can take advantage of this benefit. Second, as the state’s community-based housing programs have left many families who care for disabled individuals languishing on waitlists, a Yang administration will support these caregivers, by expanding the eligibility of the program to families who otherwise qualify and have a disabled person, including children, living with them whose name is not on the lease. This would help provide relief for the caregivers who support many disabled New Yorkers. As mayor, Andrew Yang will embark on a campaign to expand awareness of this program to ensure that all who qualify are taking advantage of this benefit by providing disability services providers with information and education so they can aid qualifying individuals through the application process and working with the state to put information about the program in Access-A-Ride vehicles.
Reserve a proportionate number of affordable housing units for those with disabilities.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the NYC Housing Development Corporation currently set aside 7% of units for applicants with disabilities (5% for those with a mobility disability and 2% for vision and hearing). These units are available through a lottery process. A Yang Administration will undergo a study to determine if 7% of units are actually being set aside and going to disabled people and if 7% is a proportionate number of units to set aside based on true demand, we suspect it is not, and will plan to expand this number of set aside units in accordance with the results of the study. A Yang administration will also assess if these units are meeting the needs of the disabled community regarding both accessibility and affordability and consider modifying the guidelines for who can access these units to ensure they are going to those who most need them.
Fight Landlord Discrimination.
Landlords have been known to discriminate against disabled residents and try to avoid accepting subsidy programs. This behavior is illegal but has gone on widely unchecked. Under a Yang administration, the City’s Commission on Human Rights will work to root out these discriminatory practices. The Human Rights Commission will be tasked with proactively identifying and sanctioning culprits and educating disabled individuals about their rights and how to make complaints.
Expand Project Open House.
The Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities administers the Project Open House program, which allows low-income New Yorkers with disabilities to apply to have architectural barriers in their homes removed to increase mobility and independence. These projects are typically quite small, for example installing grab-bars, ramps, and kitchen and bathroom modifications. The program is funded by federal Community Development Block Grants. However, in Fiscal Year 2020, the program received 73 applications but a mere 10 projects were actually accepted. Today, the program is not even accepting applications. As mayor, Andrew Yang, will seek to significantly expand support for this program, by finding other sources of funding, and exploring public-private partnerships, so that disabled New Yorkers are able to maintain their independence and move around comfortably in their homes. Project Open House under a Yang administration will also work with rehab facilities to identify low-income New Yorkers who have recently suffered a disabling injury so the City can make the necessary renovations to help stay in their current home.
Combat homelessness among the disabled community.
It is estimated that a staggering 44% of NYC’s shelter population has a disability, compared to 12% among the general population. This means that homelessness is a disability issue. Andrew Yang is committed to launching New Housing New York 25 (NHNY25), creating at least 25,000 new deeply affordable units, inclusive of supportive housing, using existing hotels that will not reopen. We will ensure that a significant proportion of these units are accessible and filled by disabled individuals. We have also called for the requirement that DHS caseworkers and service providers have the training they need to support people with mental and emotional needs, which will be to the benefit of those in shelters’ with mental health disabilities. You can read more about our homelessness plan here, including investing in supportive housing that offers truly wraparound services to support New Yorkers needs.
Expand CityFHEPS Vouchers Eligibility to Individuals Trapped in Nursing Homes
Many disabled New Yorkers get stuck living in nursing homes for years because they can’t find an accessible and affordable unit. Because these New Yorkers are living in nursing homes not homeless shelters, they are not recognized as homeless and are not eligible for housing voucher programs like CityFHEPS or Section 8, which help homeless individuals find and keep housing. An Andrew Yang administration will allow Health and Hospitals long term care centers to refer disabled people living in their facilities because of a lack of housing for CityFHEPS vouchers to help these disabled individuals get out of nursing homes and into a place of their own with services made available to help people transition into accessible housing.
II) Transit & Transportation
To make it easier for disabled individuals to get around the city, Andrew Yang will:
Prioritize subway accessibility.
Our subways are far less accessible than other major cities. In fact, they were ranked last when compared to 12 other U.S. cities. The vast majority, approximately 75%, of subway stations are not accessible. This is an unacceptable statement about a lack of care for our disabled and elderly community, which will not be tolerated by a Yang administration. The city has recently made some progress towards remedying inaccessibility in our stations. In 2019, the MTA announced the goal of making all stations accessible by 2034 through the Fast Forward program. And in 2021, the MTA selected Quemuel Arroyo to be its first Chief Accessibility Officer, who will support the MTA Construction and Development in advancing these critical projects. Given budgetary constraints due to COVID-19, there is some concern in the disabled community that development goals will be pushed back. A Yang administration will prioritize subway accessibility and will not accept delays to this plan. Andrew Yang will work closely with the Mayor’s office of People with Disabilities and the Chief Accessibility Officer and will earmark capital commitments toward ADA compliance to increase accessibility. Further, a Yang administration will pledge not to support any funds for subway station renovations, if the project does not also include money to bring the station in line with ADA standards for accessibility. A Yang administration would support and fight for the Zoning for Accessibility proposal, which would incentivize developers to build and maintain subway elevators. This is just the sort of innovative and efficient public-private partnership that a Yang administration will leverage to help solve New York’s problems.
To make our subways more accessible, the first priority will be to go to Albany to get municipal control of the subways because Andrew Yang understands that you cannot have control of the city’s recovery without having control of the arteries that move New Yorkers and visitors around. In particular, Andrew Yang supports the vision laid out by Speaker Corey Johnson’s Case for Municipal Control of the Subways, which proposes leveraging private sector developers, where appropriate, to fund station improvements, including building elevators.
Increase access to buses.
Andrew Yang is committed to increasing dedicated bus lanes and bus stops. But we must make sure that any new bus routes take accommodations into account. For example, if a rapid busway is replacing more frequent bus stops, we must solicit feedback from the community to determine how these changes might impact those for whom walking longer distances between bus stops might be a challenge and how to remedy this access issue. And, every new bus stop will have a shelter, accessible technology and/or seating for people to sit.
Improve our disability infrastructure and technology.
There are many small infrastructural improvements that can be made to our transit systems to make them more accessible. Andrew Yang will advocate for improved emergency communication for deaf individuals, more accessible subway cars that make it easier for disabled individuals to board and exit trains, more benches at bus stops, installing more raised crosswalks, providing real-time updates about elevator and escalator outage, and the creation of a trip planning app specifically designed for people with autism. An Andrew Yang administration will also follow through on Mayor De Blasio’s commitment to ensure that all curbs are accessible for New Yorkers with mobility and visual impairments by 2025; the end of his first term whereas the Mayor’s current goal is 2029. Further, a Yang administration will actively seek the input of the disabled community to find more projects that can help make New York more accessible.
New York City’s Access-A-Ride program is broken. Though managed by the MTA, the City is being expected to foot 50% of the cost, so the mayor must be part of the process to make Access-A-Ride as effective as possible. Envisioned as a means for those who cannot access public transportation to traverse the City, in practice, it has proven to be an unreliable service that causes more problems than it solves. Specifically, users point out that reservations need to be made more than 24 hours in advance, the vans rarely come at their scheduled time, and there is no coherent strategy in grouping users, which leads to circuitous routes through the five boroughs and ensuant delays. Further, the maximum ride times currently set by trip distance are unreasonable, with a 50 minute maximum ride time for trips of only 0 to 3 miles.
This has a serious impact on disabled New Yorker’s daily lives. Moreover, this failing system is incredibly expensive, costing an average of $86 per ride. By contrast, the immensely popular on-demand e-hail pilot program, which allowed paratransit users to request taxis, cost an average of $40 a ride. The program was “life-changing” for many paratransit users, as it provided much greater flexibility and was more efficient. It has also been positive for the taxi drivers, who provide these rides. However, because of its popularity, the MTA limited the number of rides users could take to 16 a month and capped rides at $15 due to cost constraints, though this has been halted during the pandemic. Anyone who has taken a taxi in New York knows that $15 does not get you very far, particularly when tolls are counted in the total cost. A Yang administration is committed to expanding and improving upon this successful pilot and will prioritize allowing for more monthly rides and an increased per-ride subsidy. An Andrew Yang administration would like to see the subsidy increased to $40, which is commensurate with the average ride cost and Boston’s access-a-ride e-hail program. Andrew Yang will also pursue public-private partnerships with ride-share companies to make this happen. A Yang administration will also explore merging the current accessible dispatch taxi service into a revamped e-hail Access-A-Ride system and will seek to significantly improve service outside of Manhattan.
Moreover, as subway accessibility improves, the e-hail program will become less essential. One study of Access-A-Ride data found that trips that started or ended near non-accessible subways stations cost a total of $258 million (in 2019, a particularly costly year, the entire program cost $614 million) and that there were sixteen non-accessible subway stations, in particular, that each had more than $2 million worth of pickups or drop-offs within a quarter-mile. So, the improvement of subway accessibility is fiscally responsible and has the potential to obviate much of the need for the costly Access-A-Ride program. In the meantime, as we improve subway accessibility, Andrew Yang will ensure that all disabled New Yorkers have an efficient and reliable means of getting around the City.
Provide personal mobility devices at Citibike hubs.
Citibikes have proven to be a massive success in New York City. Currently, many companies are working on new personal mobility devices that are accessible for the disabled community. The City has already begun testing handcycles at City events. A Yang administration will purchase a number of these adaptive bikes and incorporate them into existing Citibike infrastructure, to provide a new transit option for the disability community.
MTA Board Appointment.
The Yang administration will continue to appoint a person with a disability to the MTA to ensure that disability and diversity is represented.
Efficient Snow Removal.
Snow presents a significant barrier for people who use mobility aids. Even an inch of snow can prevent a mobility impaired person from getting around in the winter. A Yang administration’s department of sanitation will work efficiently to remove snow and respond to complaints when property and business owners are not shovelling as required. Moreover, a Yang administration will seek to expand the availability of City shovelling assistance for New Yorkers with disabilities, which is currently only available in certain neighborhoods.
Improve DOE Ambulette Services.
There is currently only one ambulette vehicle available for parents of children with disabilities, who are in district 75 residential schools. This can make it extremely difficult for parents with disabilities to visit their children. An Andrew Yang administration will seek to improve the availability and booking system for this ambulette services to ensure that disabled parents have equal access to their children.
III) Employment and Jobs
To get disabled individuals employed in good jobs, a Yang Administration will commit to hiring qualified individuals with disabilities in high level and key positions, as well as:
Support NYC: ATWORK.
NYC: ATWORK is a fantastic program that connects New Yorkers with disabilities to job opportunities and internships with their many business partners in the public and private sectors. In December, the program won the Zero Project award for its excellent work and will be used as a model for other cities worldwide. Unfortunately, the economic impact of the pandemic has had a significant impact on NYC: ATWORK, and they had to put a temporary halt on new recruitment to focus on their 300 active job seekers and many of their 350 employed participants who were furloughed or laid off. A Yang administration will put its full support behind NYC: ATWORK. Andrew Yang will help NYC: ATWORK find and connect with new private sector partners and will also advocate for increased capital funding for this incredible program and support it’s expansion into providing more education, vocational services, and follow-up support for program participants. Andrew Yang would also like to see NYC: ATWORK further collaborating with and contracting out to ACCESS-VR and other existing service providers for New Yorkers with disabilities, who also employ a large number of disabled individuals. We will also work to ensure that the proper staff is allocated to meet the demand to employ people with disabilities and the compliance with the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act.
Andrew Yang will also advocate for the reinstatement of the City’s Disability Mentoring Day program as part of the NYC: ATWORK program. Through this program, participants in NYC: ATWORK and other disabled New Yorkers will have the opportunity to engage in rewarding mentoring relationships that offer them a foot in the door at some of New York’s top employers. This event also provides an opportunity for the private sector to meet and recruit talented individuals with disabilities.
Maximize the city’s 55-a positions for people with disabilities in City government.
New York State Civil Service Law Section 55-a has authorized the City to identify up to 700 positions with duties that can be performed by a qualified person with physical or mental disabilities. If chosen for the position after a round of interviews, this individual may be appointed without taking the Civil Service exam typically used to fill this position. Currently, there are only 383 City employees who are a part of this program. Andrew Yang understands that disabled individuals have unique and important contributions and knows that our city government will be well served by having more disabled employees. To further support disabled individuals seeking employment, he will make a commitment to reach the maximum number of 700 positions, while his administration is in office. If every city agency hired four qualified individuals through 55-a, we could reach this goal, however, because of the varying sizes and needs of agencies, we will take a more flexible approach. The Andrew Yang administration will work with the MOPD and NYC:ATWORK to match qualified applicants with positions in City government to reach our goal of filling 700 55-a positions. Further, a Yang administration will push for career advancement opportunities for 55-a employees wherever possible, to ensure people with disabilities are represented in roles at all levels of city government.
Empower city agencies to present a suite of services to New Yorkers with disabilities.
The city’s Workforce1 centers can be an opportunity to connect people with job opportunities, improve interview skills and build resumes. But, these Workforce1 centers often do not have adequate understanding of disabilities and how to match people with disabilities with jobs. Andrew Yang will direct Workforce1 centers to get training on how to support people with disabilities and will also direct the Small Business Services to focus its attention on offering resources to these diverse communities, including answering questions about benefits and other resources that are unique to the issues people with disabilities face. To aid in this process an Andrew Yang administration will seek to hire people with disabilities at Workforce1 centers, who can contribute their first-hand experiences of navigating the working world as a disabled person.
Remote work as a reasonable accommodation and technology access.
One potentially positive aspect of the pandemic has been learning that it is possible for us to conduct much of our work remotely. Many job seekers and employees with disabilities have known this for years and have called for remote work as a reasonable accommodation. Though to get New York back on its feet, Andrew Yang will be encouraging many offices to go back in person, we also want to ensure that those with disabilities that make remote work much more accessible are still supported in doing so. Remote work is completely impossible, even for those it suits well without the necessary technology. The Mayor's Office for People With Disabilities (MOPD) has ensured that disabled people who are part of their NYC:ATWORK program have access to computers so they can engage in remote work. So far through a public-private partnership, they have secured and distributed 100 computers. An Andrew Yang administration would work with the MOPD to determine if there are any other disabled individuals, for whom remote work is a reasonable accommodation, who do not have access to a laptop and find funding and public-private partnerships to provide them with one. Further, Andrew Yang’s plan to expand broadband access will help remote workers in the disability community, read more about it here.
Offer a City Certification for Disability-Owned Businesses Enterprises (DOBE).
New York City currently offers a certification program for minority and women-owned business enterprises (M/WBE) and sets goals for the number of City procurement awards for these businesses. Though the state currently certifies disabled veterans’ businesses and the non-profit Disability:IN provides a disability-owned business enterprise (DOBE) certification program, the City has neither an official certification program nor a procurement award goal for DOBEs. An Andrew Yang administration will work towards creating a comprehensive DOBE program in NYC modelled on the City’s existing M/WBE program.
IV) An Equitable and Responsive Education System for Students with Disabilities
To support students with disabilities and make sure the City’s education system is working for them, Andrew Yang will:
Support students with IEPS by training our school faculty and staff.
Andrew Yang is committed to uplifting all of New York City’s students, including the estimated 224,000 students with disabilities who require an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Students with disabilities make up nearly one in five of New York City public school students. The vast majority of students with disabilities go to public school and many spend at least some time in general education classrooms. All teachers, principals and school safety officials should be trained to provide positive academic and social experiences for students with disabilities in all of our public schools. This includes faculty in general education schools who do not have District 75 classrooms.
Billions of dollars are invested in services and bureaucracy in an attempt to serve these students – with limited results. The high school graduation rate for students with IEPs is under 50%; the dropout rate is almost 14%. For too long our students have been enrolled in a system that does little to customize their experiences and meet the services prescribed in their IEPs. Andrew Yang will: increase the number of related service providers in schools and create a corps of specialized staff to increase access to resources for students where they are.
Empower parents and disability rights advocates.
Disability rights advocates and parents of students with disabilities are an invaluable resource, who can teach us so much about how to support students with disabilities. Andrew Yang will ensure that disability rights advocates are placed in high level and key positions within the Department of Education and improve outreach and engagement through sustained parent involvement with school staff, teachers, parent coordinators and give parents access to SESIS. For the parents who pursue Carter Cases, Andrew Yang will speed up the hearing process for disputes over adequate resources for children. Above all, Andrew will work towards building an ambitious public school system that is effective for all of New York City’s students while ensuring students with disabilities have the same access to physical education as their peers and collaborate with the NYC Parks Department. Read more about our comprehensive plan for overhauling DOE systems to support students with disabilities from pre-k to high school here (when link is live).
V) Equity in Law Enforcement Interactions
To support people with disabilities in their interactions with law enforcement and increase access to mental health care, Andrew Yang will:
Offer an opportunity to opt-in to designate a disability on NYCIDs.
It is no secret that many tragic outcomes between law enforcement and the communities they serve occur when law enforcement is interacting with someone with a disability that might not be automatically visible. One report estimates that almost half of the people killed by police have a disability. A potential solution is to make police aware that they are dealing with someone with a ‘hidden disability,’ which may lead the police to seek aid from a social worker or someone more apt to deal with the crisis at hand. Currently, Alaska is the only state that authorizes its DMV to provide a method for persons to voluntarily designate on their driver’s license or ID card that identifies them as someone with a medically verified cognitive, mental, neurological, or physical disability. Andrew Yang will pursue joining with Alaska to allow individuals with disabilities to opt-in to a voluntary indication of disability on NYCIDs, if they so wish. A Yang administration will also simplify the process for those in assisted living programs to get NYCIDs.
Train Law Enforcement to be more cognizant of disabilities.
Law enforcement needs to understand a wide variety of disabilities to be able to engage with disabled people in a fair and respectful manner. Not everyone is able to put their hands up and having a police force that does not understand about physical disabilities puts disabled people at risk. Moreover, disabled people who struggle with speech are often assumed by law enforcement to be drunk. The NYPD should be trained to tell the difference between speech disorders and intoxication, for example, as well as how to identify and appropriately interact with people with a variety of disabilities. A Yang administration will push for Disability Awareness training for the NYPD.
Expand the NYPD’s capacity for a mental health response.
As more New Yorkers struggle with the lingering economic and social impacts of COVID-19, rapid response to mental health emergencies is paramount. While the NYPD is often called upon when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, a police response is oftentimes not what is warranted. Our City has already piloted Co-Response Teams which add behavioral health specialists to police response teams when New Yorkers are in distress. This effort is already promised to scale up in 2021.
A Yang administration will dramatically expand non-police responses to those in distress by expanding HOME-STAT, investing in community safety efforts at the local level, and empowering neighborhood networks of rapid response providers to get people in distress the care that they need. See our full plan for a fair and safe city here.
Improve New Yorkers access to mental healthcare.
Andrew Yang has already put forward a number of plans regarding improving mental health care in the wake of COVID. These include, dramatically increasing the number of social workers and mental health providers in schools, expanding school-based health centers, and offering mental health services for all hospital staff at H+H. You can read more about our plan here.
Advocate for incarcerated people with disabilities.
Many incarcerated people with disabilities struggle to access the specialized care they need and face an egregious lack of accommodations and accessibility. As mayor, Andrew Yang will advocate for the needs of disabled people incarcerated in city jails in NYC. This will include complying with a 2018 settlement and implementing the promised architectural changes to make Rikers more accessible and ADA compliant on-time or in advance of the 2024 deadline.
VI) A Responsive and Effective City Government
To ensure that the disability community is represented and supported by City government, Andrew Yang will:
Ensure municipal government reflects and understands New Yorkers’ lived experiences.
A Yang administration will also commit to placing people with disabilities in high level and key positions within every city agency. We cannot make and implement policy decisions that affect our communities without having officials at all levels of government who understand these lived experiences and who can advocate for appropriate changes.
Appoint Disabled People As Disability Service Facilitators.
City law requires that every New York City agency appoints a Disability Service Facilior (DSF) who is responsible for coordinating the agency's accessibility efforts and serves as liaisons between the agency and New Yorkers with disabilities. As mayor, Andrew Yang will ensure that as many DSFs as possible are people who have disabilities themselves and are knowledgeable about disability issues. A Yang administration will also make certain that DSFs are fairly compensated and provided with useful trainings and other support.
Increase accessibility at polling sites.
Despite requirements that polling sites are physically accessible and provide accessible voting equipment, in practice, many disabled New Yorkers face difficulties in casting their ballots. An investigation found that approximately 20% of NYC polling sites during the 2018 primary did not have working ballot marking devices that aid individuals with disabilities in voting privately and independently. They also found that many voting sites were not truly accessible for those with mobility impairments. Andrew Yang will ensure that all city polling places have designated monitors, who will be responsible for ensuring the site is truly accessible and all of the accessible voting equipment is functioning before voting starts. On voting days, this monitor will also provide any needed assistance for people with disabilities. We must make voting a positive experience for all New Yorkers and preempt and solve any barriers to disabled New Yorker’s exercise of this fundamental American right. Andrew Yang will also explore mobile and electronic options while encouraging and supporting other programs, such as “Vote North” a small pilot created by nurses at Lenox Hill in 2018 to make sure that their patients had an opportunity to cast their ballot. The effort has already served 350 people including 275 people during the pandemic 2020 general election. Each day there are 612,000 patients hospitalized across the U.S. and with 215 hospitals in New York state. We can do more to ensure that those in hospitals, including those with disabilities, are not prevented from their franchise because they are in a hospital bed or because the process of requesting and receiving an absentee ballot is inaccessible.
Combat the shortage of sign language interpreters.
There are more than 200,000 deaf or hard of hearing New Yorkers, many of whom require interpreters when interacting with City agencies, courts, hospitals, and the NYPD. In 2018, De Blasio rolled out ASL Direct which was the first of its kind program that allows Deaf and Hard of Hearing New Yorkers to connect via webcam with an information specialist who can help them obtain City services. This was a positive improvement that Andrew Yang will continue to support but more needs to be done, particularly with regards to live interpreters, who play a critical role in supporting the deaf and hard of hearing community. In 2018, only seven of the more than 300 staff interpreters in New York’s Court System worked in ASL, and even fewer were Certified Deaf interpreters, who are deaf or hard of hearing themselves, and help communicate with deaf people with limited language fluency. A lack of sign-language interpreters in City Hospitals, which are legally required to provide an interpreter within 20 minutes of a request but often cannot find an interpreter that quickly, resulted in one man’s death. Much of this problem is driven by a shortage of interpreters and poor pay for the few interpreters in the City. Andrew Yang will seek to recruit ASL interpreters and Certified Deaf interpreters to New York City and will advocate for pay that will help retain these crucial employees and that is commensurate with the incredibly valuable work that they do.
Advocate for medically fragile adults and their in-home nurses.
After years of stagnant medicaid rates for private-duty nurses who take care of medically fragile New Yorkers who require round the clock care, the state increased the pay of nurses who care for medically fragile children. This has put families and nurses in a difficult position as this increased rate ends when medically fragile people turn 23 and become categorized as medically fragile adults. Their nurses, many of whom have taken care of them for years while making significantly less than they would in a hospital setting, must take a 30% hit to their pay. This has forced nurses to leave patients they care deeply about, left families without care, and pushed medically fragile adults into nursing homes, which actually cost the state more than twice as much as in-home care. This is incredibly harmful and totally nonsensical. As mayor, Andrew Yang will advocate on the state level for medically fragile adults, their in-home nurses, and their families calling for nurses' pay to be maintained into a medically fragile person's adulthood.