Senate Passes Bills Addressing Persons with Disabilities

March 4, 2016

Boston – On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate passed a number of bills aimed to support persons with disabilities including updating language in current laws to remove archaic language when referring to persons with disabilities, establishing an Office of Health Equity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, requiring the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office to develop standards to identify and recruit qualified applicants with disabilities, and expanding the authority of the Architectural Access Board to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“I am grateful for the bipartisan support for these critical pieces of legislation. Our goal as a legislative body is to ensure that individuals with disabilities and their families know they are supported and respected in their communities and across the Commonwealth. I am pleased that Massachusetts continues to be a place full of opportunity for all persons with disabilities,” said Senator Ross.

The pieces of the legislation include:

S. 2140, An Act Eliminating Archaic Language Pertaining to Individuals with Disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in an effort to update the language used for persons with disabilities this bill changes terms in current laws such as disabled to “persons with a disability” and mentally retarded to “individuals with a developmental disability.”  This may seem like a minor change to the general public but to the disabled community it means a great deal.

S. 2143, An Act Eliminating Health Disparities in the Commonwealth, establishes an Office of Health Equity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to investigate and identify health and healthcare disparities as a result of an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, or disability. The Office will coordinate efforts to eliminate these disparities, collaborate with other state agencies, and evaluate the effectiveness of programs and interventions to eliminate health disparities.

S. 2141, An Act Updating Terminology and Investigative Practices Related to the Protection of Persons with a Disability, makes several technical changes to the Disabled Persons Protection Commission, such as updating antiquated language, clarifying investigatory practices, and streamlining reporting of possible abuse of persons with disabilities.

S. 2142, An Act Relative to the Hiring of Persons with a Disability, requires the Supplier Diversity Office to develop standards to identify and recruit qualified applicants with disabilities. In addition, the bill requires that all state employees involved in hiring decisions are trained and educated pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

S. 1323, An Act Relative to the Architectural Access Board, makes several updates to the Architectural Access Board’s responsibilities in order to make public buildings safer and more accessible to persons with disabilities. The bill also expands the Board’s authority to include employee areas of public buildings and to spaces around public buildings including parking lots, passageways, and sidewalks.  The bill amends the membership of the Board by requiring the six appointed members to include two architects and one building inspector.

Please contact the office of Senator Ross with any questions or concerns at (617) 722-1555 or Richard.Ross@masenate.gov.

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