Council to Vote on Language Access and Accessibility Requirements for City Websites.

Council will also vote on legislative package improving access to city services for New Yorkers with disabilities

City Hall – Today the New York City Council will vote on a bill to require increased language access to city websites, as well as a bill requiring accessibility standards for city websites for New Yorkers with disabilities. The Council will also vote on two bills to improve access to city agencies for New Yorkers with disabilities. Finally, the Council will vote on legislation requiring the city to examine the cost effectiveness of installing solar power systems on the roofs of city buildings.

Access to City Websites

Introduction 673-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would require that every city website include a translation feature for viewing the text of the website in languages other than English. It also requires the translation feature to be comprehensible to speakers of the seven most commonly spoken languages.

“This law is a first step in updating language access standards in New York City,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We must do a better job communicating with all New Yorkers, and making our online presence more user-friendly to speakers of non-English languages will make our city more accessible to all.”

“It’s simply wrong that many New Yorkers can’t currently access critical city services and information because of language barriers,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “Today, I am proud we are passing important legislation to increase accessibility on city websites. We must make sure that New York City works for all New Yorkers, regardless of English language proficiency.”

Introduction 683-A, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick, would require the adoption of an accessibility standard for city websites to better serve New Yorkers with disabilities. The Mayor would be required to adopt either the current federal regulations on website accessibility or a standard developed by the Worldwide Web Consortium, called the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA.

“We need to do better in making public information accessible to people with disabilities,” said Council Member Dan Garodnick. “No one should be denied access to information or services because of a disability, and the City should adopt uniform standards that are easy to use, and easy to understand.”

“Making sure vital City information is accessible to all New Yorkers is a priority of the Technology Committee,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Technology. “These bills will improve the online experience for New Yorkers who may have had barriers preventing them from attaining information from the City. Our goal is to make all of the City’s websites equally accessible to all New Yorkers, regardless of disability or limited English-language proficiency. I commend Council Member Jumaane Williams and Council Member Dan Garodnick for their efforts and commitment to passing this legislation, and I thank the Speaker for making these bills a priority.”

City Services for New Yorkers with Disabilities

Introduction 881-A, sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Ritchie Torres, would require each city agency, in consultation with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, to designate a Disability Service Facilitator (the “Facilitator”) to coordinate the agency’s efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal, state, and local laws concerning accessibility for persons with disabilities. Among the Facilitator’s responsibilities would be to: serve as the agency’s primary contact for persons with disabilities requesting auxiliary services and to coordinate such services; develop agency policies and procedures to ensure full programmatic and communication accessibility for persons with disabilities; conduct periodic training for agency staff on disability access issues; and assist in the investigation of any complaint communicated to the agency alleging noncompliance with federal, state, and local laws relating to people with disabilities. The bill would further require that each Facilitator’s contact information be made available online.

Introduction 883-A, also sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Ritchie Torres, would require that all advertisements, posters, invitations, and other publicity materials for events open to the public hosted by city agencies contain information on who to contact for information regarding accessibility at the event, and a deadline for when requests for accommodations for people with disabilities must be received by the event’s organizer. Agencies are required to encourage their contractors to comply with this requirement, and community boards and community district education councils are permitted to comply if practicable. Furthermore, the bill would require that publicity materials, to the extent practicable for the particular form of media, include information regarding the availability of wheelchair accessibility, communication access real-time translation, ASL interpretation, assistive listening systems, and any other accommodations for people with disabilities. Finally, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities would be required to develop and distribute a guide to assist agencies in complying with these requirements.

“Disability rights are civil rights, and for too long our City has looked the other way when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities. 10% of New Yorkers have a disability – be it a physical disability, hearing or visual impairment – and it is our responsibility to serve these New Yorkers as best we can. 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), New Yorkers with disabilities continue to face barriers to full participation in civic life and in interactions with City agencies. Today’s legislation is a step towards equal access for all,” “Disability rights are civil rights, and for too long our City has looked the other way when it comes to accommodating people with disabilities. 10% of New Yorkers have a disability – be it a physical disability, hearing or visual impairment – and it is our responsibility to serve these New Yorkers as best we can. 25 years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), New Yorkers with disabilities continue to face barriers to full participation in civic life and in interactions with City agencies. Today’s legislation is a step towards equal access for all,” said Council Member Helen Rosenthal, co-prime sponsor of the legislation.

“The issue of accessibility and disability is one that is often ignored because many of us don’t have to deal with it on a daily basis. Accessibility to city resources is a constant problem for thousands of disabled New Yorkers, and through these two bills we are rectifying that. If these two bills are signed into law, every city agency will have to designate an employee that will coordinate that agency’s compliance with the ADA and all public city events will have to advertise information regarding accessibility at the event. These are solutions that will make life easier for disabled New Yorkers that must deal with other obstacles. I applaud Council Member Rosenthal for leading the charge and pushing these bills in the Council, and I’m proud to have been a partner throughout the legislative process,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, co-prime sponsor of the bills.

Solar Energy

Introduction 478-A, sponsored by Council Member Costa Constantinides, would require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) to examine the roof of every City-owned building to determine whether it would be practical and cost-effective to install a photovoltaic – or solar energy – system on the roof as well as the capacity of the system that could be installed. DCAS would then provide a biennial report on its progress toward installing rooftop photovoltaic systems.

The first report would be due December 31, 2016, and subsequent reports would be due by September of every other year thereafter.

“The online reports on feasibility and cost of installing solar panels on city buildings required in Int. 478-A will encourage use of solar energy. The reporting of the decisions behind whether to install solar systems will increase transparency on our city’s use of renewable energy. The online reports will include cost-benefit estimates, which will be useful for private property owners who are interested in installing solar panels on their own homes. They’ll be able to save green by going green. This policy will help bring us closer toward our goal of increasing solar capacity and decreasing our carbon emissions 80% by 2050. I thank my City Council colleagues for their partnership on helping us reach this goal,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides.

Transparency Resolution

The Council will vote on a budget transparency resolution that includes $365,000 dollars toward programs associated with the Young Women’s Initiative. This funding represents the first phase of a $10 million dollar commitment by the City Council. The Young Women’s Initiative, launched by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, is a coalition of organizations in New York City aimed at improving the lives young women in areas of healthcare, education, the justice system and economic development.