Advocates for disablity services agencies discuss concerns with state lawmakers

Feb 13, 2017

Advocates for people who have disabilities were in that state capital Monday to lobby for an increase in state aid for independent living centers.

Representatives of the New York Association for Independent Living staged its 2017 Annual Legislative Day, an effort to make state lawmakers aware needs of people who have disabilities.

Todd Vaarwerk, director of advocacy and public policy for the Western New York Independent Living

Todd Vaarwerk, director of advocacy and public policy for the Western New York Independent Living Center
Credit WBFO file photo

Center, told WBFO advocates are also concerned about possible cuts in federal funding to social programs. They are hoping state officials will forge a plan to help ease the impact if such occur.

Another key goal of the lobbying effort involved a push to see a $5 million increase in base funding for 39 independent living centers across the state. The group said there has been only one cost-of-living adjustment for the disability service agencies in the last 13 years. Vaarwerk insisted that public investments in such facilities pay off in the long run.

“Independent living services are those critical items that keep people independent in the community,” he said.  “Every person that we can help keep in the community is going to save the state money, an estimate of about 70 grand for every person they keep out a nursing home for a year.”

Advocates also planned to talk with state leaders about the need to ensure that ride-hailing companies give assurances that they will provide access to riders who have disabilities before they are permitted to expand in Upstate New York.

WBFO's Brandon Gonzalez contributed to this report.