Accessibility in its fullest sense is the right to be seen and not be forced to live on the margins of our communities.
We must challenge and help transform the stigmatization faced by people living with disabilities. Disability rights advocates speak passionately about the waves of suspicion, blame, and judgment they face on a daily basis. The Massachusetts State Senate must be a watchdog for this insidious reality, making sure that state policy not only does nothing to perpetuate it, but helps alleviate it.
Attached to the stigma is the pervasive challenge regarding expectations. That’s why the Legislature must lift the horizon on expectations for what people living with disabilities want, need, and can achieve so that government is not adversely limiting what’s achievable.
We must also recognize the broad continuum of people living with disabilities and ensure that policy reflects government’s nuanced responsibility across abilities—from physical to developmental to emotional to cognitive.
And, we need to proactively create legislation that makes it easier for people living with disabilities to be present and to engage deeply. Joannah Whitney, a disability rights advocate living in Greenfield told me, “We’re building a world that makes it harder for people with disabilities to be present.” This heightens the risk of isolation.
Bottom line, we have to focus across issues—education, housing, employment, public transportation, infrastructure, and health care—that robustly breaks down barriers to full engagement and provides the resources needed to fulfill the mission of associated programs and initiatives. And this focus must not be an afterthought, we have to lead with it as central.
Please take a look below at the disability rights-related bills I filed this session.
You can also view all bills I’ve co-sponsored this session here.
Fund Special Education
S.295, An Act establishing a Special Education Funding Reform Commission
The state’s formula for providing funding to school districts for special education costs relies upon an assumption that often does not come close to meeting the actual costs. Our children with disabilities suffer from inadequate resources due to this funding formula that shortchanges our school districts. My bill sets up a Commission to review the Commonwealth’s system for funding special education and make recommendations for a more equitable system that will provide adequate funding to local school districts to meet the costs of providing high quality education to students with disabilities.
Home Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities
S.748, An Act supporting equal access to community care for elders and the disabled
Current law makes seniors and people with disabilities ineligible for home care if their income goes just a penny above the income limit, a policy often called the “cliff effect.” My bill will allow eligible people to receive MassHealth home and community-based care even if their income is over the program income limit, if they pay a premium equal to their income above the limit.
For people with autism spectrum disorder, encounters with police can be fraught. My bill provides for a state-approved blue envelope to be used voluntarily by people with autism spectrum disorder while driving. The envelope will hold a license and drivers registration information, with best practices written on the exterior of the envelope for police officers when interacting with people with autism spectrum disorder. The bill is modeled after a similar successful initiative in Connecticut.