In Florida they seem to be a step ahead of us here in Oregon, when it comes to laws that are progressive. The two bills signed into law on Friday will improve the lives of people with physical and developmental disabilities.
GOVERNOR CRIST SIGNS BILLS TO ASSIST PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
GOVERNOR'S PRESS OFFICE
ORLANDO – Governor Charlie Crist signed two bills into law today that benefit people with disabilities. Senate Bill 856 promotes education of disability history and awareness, and House Bill 739 improves access to Guardian Advocates for people with disabilities. The Governor signed the bills surrounded by individuals with disabilities, their families, and advocates at the 10th Annual Family Café Conference in Orlando.
The Family Café focuses on providing information and resources to people with disabilities. Also joining the Governor were the disability history and Guardian Advocate bill sponsors Senators Mike Fasano (R-New Port Richey) and Victor Crist (R-Tampa) and Representatives Curtis Richardson (D-Tallahassee) and Kevin Ambler (R-Tampa). Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp and James DeBeaugrine, interim director of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, also attended the event.
“Teaching disability history and awareness in our schools will help young people learn that people with disabilities are just like anyone else – with the same wants, desires, and abilities to achieve great things,” said Governor Crist. “Additionally, the Guardian Advocate law will help protect the most vulnerable by reducing legal costs to gain a guardian advocate.”
The Disability History and Awareness bill designates the first two weeks of October as a time when public schools will provide instruction on disability issues. Each school will cover disability history, famous people with disabilities, and the disability rights movement. The long-term benefits are as follows:
Better treatment for people with disabilities in society.
Increased attention to preventing bullying of students with disabilities.
Increased hiring, retaining, and promoting of people with disabilities as employees once students become adults.
Greater self-esteem and pride among persons with disabilities, resulting in increased entrance into college, the workforce and community involvement.
Greater inclusiveness in society for all individuals with disabilities.
The second bill signed helps protect the rights of people with developmental disabilities by improving access to a Guardian Advocate. Guardian Advocates are designated by a court to make decisions on behalf of an individual with a disability. Some benefits are as follows:
Clarifies what type of decision-making assistance the Guardian Advocate will provide.
Requires an attorney to be appointed at state expense.
Enhances efficiencies in the system, reducing costs and making it easier for more families to become Guardian Advocates.
Requires disclosure of conflict on interests, preventing egregious conflicts and protecting the vulnerable.
Addresses the process of restoration of rights, which was unclear in previous legislation.