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Senate Passes Bills to Support Persons with Disabilities

March 3, 2016

The Massachusetts Senate today passed several bills related to issues impacting persons with disabilities, including removing archaic language in current laws that refer 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.

“We need to make sure we give everyone the tools and opportunities they need to be self-sufficient, productive and successful adults. The bills the Senate passed today share the common goal of making life easier for individuals with disabilities in communities across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka.

In an effort to update the language used to refer to persons with disabilities, S. 2140, An Act Eliminating Archaic Language Pertaining to Individuals with Disabilities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, changes terms in current law such as “disabled” to “persons with a disability” and “mentally retarded” to “individuals with a developmental disability.” These changes are significant updates to the law to ensure sensitivity to individuals in the disabled community.

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 disparities in access to quality health care and in health outcomes among different populations.

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 to be 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.

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