2017 City Council Screening Questionnaire
Candidate Name: Amanda Farias
Council District: 18
Campaign Address: 1500 Thieriot Ave, A5 Bronx, NY 10460
Political: NOW-NYC, Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, Council Member Helen Rosenthal and VOTE PRO CHOICE
Action Shows Commitment!
What have you accomplished in regard to advancing disability rights? This can include work towards accessible housing, transportation, employment, health care, education, and including people with disabilities in the political process? I was a voting member on the Steering Committee for Participatory Budgeting NYC and within the guidelines and processes in the city, creating ADA accessible voting rights and online/remote voting was a priority for me to ensure PBNYC was inclusive.
Will you only attend / sponsor events that are accessible to people with disabilities (PWDs including providing written materials in alternate formats, providing assistive listening systems, and sign language interpreters as well as ensuring that locations are physically accessible? I commit to making/attending/sponsoring events with the materials and tools for PWDs as a priority.
Local Law 28 requires City department and agency “advertising and other materials pertaining to public events to include information regarding accessibility for people with disabilities” but it does not include elected officials or Community Boards. Do you believe the law should be amended to include electeds and Community Boards? In the absence of an amendment to Local Law 28, would you voluntarily comply? I do believe Local Law 28 should be amended to include elected officials and Community Boards. Transparency and inclusion are both important elements of my platform, and necessary for effective governance. We cannot claim to advocate, or have any desire for, said inclusion if we also create barriers to access for any members of the public, whether those barriers are language or physical. Taking simple measures to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities is something all public servants should strive to provide. I do commit to voluntarily comply to these measures of accessibility, and ensure people with disabilities are at the table and are heard .
II. General Questions:
What personal and professional experience have you had with people with disabilities? My grandfather lost both his legs while I was young and was wheelchair bound for a majority of my life. I had a huge hand in helping my grandparents on a day to day basis, and know intimately of the struggles he faced in getting around, or not being able to get around our community. My grandfather primarily depended on Access-a-ride since I was too young to drive and he no longer could. AAR was never reliable nor were they accountable for his missed appointments, days they never showed up or hours spent waiting for them to come back. In my community, people with disabilities do not have many other options if they are in need to go out, shop, or attend appointments due to our community’s lack of transportation access.
What would be your strategy to work closely with the disability community to assure passage of vitally needed legislation through the City Council? I would ensure to create positive relationships with those in the disability community, and work closely to put the disability lens on legislation I create. When we speak of intersectionality, and looking at all the layers of being marginalized, it is important to include the viewpoint of all groups who experience discrimination. It is unfortunate when people with disabilities are left out of that conversation, and we end up with legislation that inadvertently places further burden on the community. I would work with organizations like the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Disability Rights New York, the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, and Independent Living Centers, among others to hear the many perspectives of those within the disability to community, and create legislation that is as thoughtful, and holistic as possible.
How will you use your office to affirm or strengthen, rather than weaken, civil rights protections for persons with disabilities? I hope to lead by example. I think speaking about the issues that people with disabilities face, and advocating for their fair and equal treatment, is the first step in the process. If there is legislation that is proposed that does not take into account the experience of a person with a disability, I will advocate that it be amended to reflect that added protection, and ensure all voices are heard throughout the process.
Will all events planned by your office be accessible with all material including the appropriate accessibility symbols (such as the wheelchair, ASL CART, etc)? I think it is important that anyone who wishes to be civically engaged, or looks to inform themselves in some way, is given the opportunity to do so, and has the ability to do so without an added personal burden. Should I be elected, I will make sure all events planned are accessible, and provide necessary materials that allows those with disabilities to engage with my office.
What is your position on the development of supported apartments/homes for people with disabled in your borough? I am in favor of the development of supported housing for people with disabilities, and any measure that would provide resources to ensure people with disabilities gain greater autonomy.
Visitability sets guidelines to ensure newly constructed multi-family dwellings have basic accessible/adaptable features to permit people with disabilities can visit, and for residents to "age in place," without having to move out when age and/or disability set in. Do you support incorporating the concept of “visitability” in the Building Code? Yes, I support this.
What will you do to expand affordable wheelchair accessible transportation in NYC, express buses, and shuttles, more accessible subway stations, etc.? If elected, I will advocate to expand funding towards MTA to ensure there are more wheelchair accessible transportation options throughout the city. Additionally, I would work to identify the lack of wheelchair access points in my own district and put a plan in place in conjunction with MTA to expand its accessibility through upgrades and renovations. I would also work to facilitate communication between homeowners and DPR and DOT to ensure uneven sidewalks are repaired, allowing for greater mobility between point A and point B. The district also has an issue with ponding, especially around crosswalks. I would work with DEP and DOT to address the issues that cause the ponding, and push for timely solutions.
Access-A-Ride (AAR) users experience unnecessarily long trips, causing users to be late for work and appointments. Users have been stranded and penalized as a "no-show" when the vehicle never arrived. Riders who complain report they have been subject to retaliation. What would you do to improve the quality of service? Throughout the years, I have had the opportunity to both experience AAR through my disabled veteran grandfather's eyes, as I went to appointments with him, and through my work at City Council. I ultimately believe the MTA no longer should be in charge of AAR and a different or new city agency needs to have oversight. Many issues occur with drivers not using their GPS devices and MTA routinely failing to make sure the devices were used. Whether or not MTA is in charge, forcing Access-a-Ride bus, van and car drivers to use GPS, tracking pickups, drop-offs and routes to hold those drivers accountable is one solution, and another would be to update their systems to have a downloadable application on devices for customers to submit/rate their drivers - like car sharing apps.
VI. Community Boards:
Do you support requiring all Community Board meetings and functions to be accessible, including requiring sign language interpreters and large print format material? Yes.
b How many people with disabilities have/will you appoint to your local Community Board? I would like my community board to be directly representative of the residents within my community. To that end, I would like to have membership reflect the percentage of people within the community, from all backgrounds, including those who are disabled .
VII. Discretionary Funds:
Will you use your discretionary funds to support organizations serving PWDS or service organizations seeking to make their programs accessible to PWDS? I can commit to meeting with groups serving citywide and/or within my community to address the issues and concerns of PWDs and how to best address issues within District 18 within the budget.
a. What steps do you think NYC should take to encourage business owners to make their establishments more accessible?
I think NYC should work on campaign for Small Business Services to encourage business owners to consider the layouts of their businesses and types of services they provide. Abled individuals are not forced to think about placements of shelves, highs and lows of items, aisle spacing, and whether or not they need items in print. We should encourage businesses to think about these things, along with mandating ramps and ADA accessible bathrooms.
b. How would you ensure that emergency evacuation for PWDS provisions are put in place to improve survival rates of PWDs in the event of fire, attack, blackout, or other emergency situation? There are a number of measures that can be taken to ensure PWD receive assistance in emergency situations. For starters, I would hold drives in my community to encourage people with disabilities to put their name on a roster so that in the event of an emergency situation, like with Hurricane Sandy, they receive the proper assistance in a timely manner. In the situation of Hurricane Sandy, people with disabilities reported many issues in accessing assistance, and the city was sued due to inadequate provisions that took their needs into account, including poor or no access to safety shelters in schools and other city-owned buildings. Pushing for resources that allows the city to bring all shelters to ADA compliance is paramount. The city has been working their way through these shelters, but with limited resources, and a limited budget that only allows for one engineer from MOPD and one from OEM to inspects these buildings, the process has been slow. Adding staff likes that allows the city to more quickly bring these buildings to code would go a long way in ensuring people with disabilities have somewhere to turn to for safety during an evacuation. Any emergency evacuations plans should include provisions for PWD. This would include collaboration between MOPD and OEM, FDNY, and NYPD, and training for those within the agency, and uniformed officers, to address the needs of people with disabilities in a thoughtful manner. I would also advocate to those in the state assembly and senate to pass legislation that makes these provisions a requirement in any and all evacuation plans within city and state agencies in New York.
X. Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities (MOPD)
a. Mayor Bloomberg elevated the Director of the (MOPD) to a Commissioner without any increase in budget. How would you ensure that city departments/agencies coordinate through MOPD? I would start off by recommending MOPD and Commissioner Calise receive more staff lines. With only nine staff lines dedicated to the mayoral office, the potential good work MOPD can achieve is diminished due to lack of manpower and resources. This lack of manpower results in the aforementioned slow process of ensuring ADA compliance among city-owned buildings and emergency shelters. I would work with MOPD to make recommendations to all city agencies on how they can best collaborate, and hold those agencies accountable in situations where measures are taken without the disability community in mind. Additionally, I believe it is important to encourage city agencies to hire staff from within the disability community, and work with MOPD to help connect them to the those seeking jobs. I know MOPD does workshops at least once a year about hiring people with disabilities, and making reasonable accommodations in the workplace. However, it is important that these recommendations be followed up with measures to create accountability and ensure compliance. It is important to change the stigma behind disabilities, and continuously impress upon those in charge of hiring that people with disabilities offer unique qualities that make them valuable additions to their roster of employees.
How do you believe the City Council should enforce and do oversight regarding the work of the office and be certain of the implementation and its efforts? As a City Council member the best use of your role is through proactive legislation and oversight through hearings and requiring reports from city agencies. For the past 4 years, I have worked on putting pressure on city agencies through projects like Participatory Budgeting and through writing legislation where I have had the opportunity to do the research, ask the tough questions and make the follow-up. I also have had answers from City Agencies that weren’t substantial and I’ve written legislation to hold them accountable, and at times have had them voted in as law. This is the way the City Council enforces current regulations and holds the agencies accountable in its implementations and efforts towards a more equitable, proactive and inclusive city.