U.S. Senator Charles Schumer today visited Wildwood Programs in the town of Guilderland, promoting legislation he says would empower disabled people.
Schumer said it is fitting he is announcing a new initiative during March, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The Democrat would like to see the disabled have the option to receive help rather than be institutionalized. "People with disabilities should not be denied the choice to receive at-home care and support services. We should not discriminate against the disabled, which is a hallmark of our society. And so this system needs to be fixed. So today I'm calling on Congress to pass new legislation which I have authored, called 'the Disability Integration Act,' because we have to do everything in our power to make sure that those with disabilities have the resources needed to live and thrive in the comfort of their own homes or their own communities, if they so choose."
State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara’s teenage son Michael, who is autistic, is a student at Wildwood. "I have a similar package in the New York state Assembly called 'Autism Action New York.' This is something that the Senator now is bringing to us as something that's gonna to offer choices."
Schumer, sponsor and author of the bill, says the legislation will grant individuals with disabilities more independence, more comfort and freedom, while saving them money. As for the cost of the bill: "In some cases it will save money. Cheaper to have somebody at home, costs less to have someone at home. In some cases it will cost money, because the people who are at home, disabled persons at home, the family is often paying for disabled services itself. Once we introduce it we'll get an estimate. But it's not guaranteed that it's gonna cost a lot of money. Remember, institutionalization costs a lot."
He defines "a lot" as $91,000 a year per person on average. Schumer adds that his legislation will lessen the emotional burden that faces family members when caring for loved ones with disabilities who are not receiving necessary services and supports. "The bill is a win-win-win. I'm gonna put my muscle behind it in the Congress. And hopefully, next time I come back at Wildwoood we'll be able to say 'we passed the Disabilities Integration Act, and here's the next piece of legislation we're gonna work on.’" [applause]
Schumer says he became aware of the plight of the disabled when advocates came to him and told him how much change was needed.