BOSTON – Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Massachusetts Senate passed legislation on Thursday to update and strengthen laws for persons with disabilities in the Commonwealth. All five bills received unanimous support from members of the Senate.
The legislation revises existing laws by removing archaic language used to refer to persons with disabilities, and establishes an Office of Health Equity within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The Senate also passed legislation which requires the Massachusetts Supplier Diversity Office to develop standards to identify and recruit qualified applicants with disabilities, and expands the authority of the Architectural Access Board to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“These changes mark a significant step forward in removing barriers for persons with disabilities,” said Sen. Moore. “I commend all of the disability advocates for highlighting the need for this legislation. I am proud to join my colleagues in the Senate to enhance opportunities and to ensure that our laws safeguard the rights of all individuals.”
“I am grateful to Senator Moore and other members of the Senate for passing legislation to help make workplaces and housing more accessible for persons with disabilities,” said Mike Kennedy of the Center for Living & Working located in Worcester. “The Architectural Access Board, for example, currently only has jurisdiction in public spaces and the bill would expand the scope of their responsibilities to help remove barriers faced by those with disabilities. In addition to helping alleviate accessibility issues with housing, the legislation also encourages employers to cast a wider net to provide greater opportunities for folks with disabilities which is mutually beneficial to the employer who is acquiring new talent.”
The bills passed by the Senate include:
• S.2140, An Act eliminating archaic language pertaining to individuals with disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, changes terms in current such as disabled to “persons with a disability” and mentally retarded to “individuals with a developmental disability.”
• S.2143, An Act eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in the Commonwealth, established 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 to increase the Commonwealth’s compliance with federal law meeting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 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.
The legislation will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.