Council Accomplishments and Involvement
Since 1971, the Council has worked with considerable success to improve the lives of people with disabilities. To start, the Council is well known for its role in closing Laconia State School, helping NH to become the first state to free all its citizens from institutions in 1991. For nearly a century, Laconia had deprived citizens with disabilities of their basic human rights to live freely in the community, get a job, make their own choices, and lead full and normal lives. The federal court used the Council’s proposed master plan, called “Action for Independence”, as the blueprint for closing Laconia, freeing all of its residents, and providing these residents with a home and the supports they needed to live as full citizens in the community.
More recently, in June, 2014, the Council was involved in the passing of Senate Bill 396, which amended the 2010 law dealing with restraint and seclusion of children with disabilities. The bill does the following: limits the use of child restraint practices in facilities and schools; limits the use of seclusion and adds new protections for when seclusion is used; adds prompt parental notification requirements; adds new reporting and data keeping requirements for school and facilities.
In 2015, the Council took the lead on the Subminimum Wage Act (Senate Bill 47). This is a piece of legislation that forbids employers from paying individuals with disabilities less than the state minimum wage, except for family businesses and practical experience/training programs. It also prohibits employment in sheltered workshops, which previously had been allowed to pay employees just pennies for a day’s work. New Hampshire is the first state in the United States to pass such a law, giving momentum to the national trend to end subminimum payments to individuals with disabilities.
In March of 2016, SB 146 passed. SB 146, relative to accessory dwelling units, addresses part of the housing problem for persons with disabilities by requiring municipalities to allow accessory dwelling units in zoning districts that permit single-family dwellings, either as a matter of right or by special exception. This in turn will increase the supply of affordable and accessible housing options that are integrated in the community for people with disabilities and their caregivers without more infrastructure or land development. Policy Committee members worked with legislators and stakeholders to craft and pass bipartisan legislation.
Governor Hassan Signs Accessory Dwelling Units Law:
The most significant piece of affordable housing legislation to pass in New Hampshire in many years
The new law 'will help increase affordable housing options' in New Hampshire, says Gov. Maggie Hassan
Current Policy Involvement
At this time, the Council is involved in the ABLE Act, and has been largely responsible for the progress that has been made thus far. SB 265, establishing the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings account program, implements the federal ABLE Act of 2014 for New Hampshire. People with disabilities and their family members can open a tax free 529-A savings accounts to save for medical, housing, transportation, employment training, education and other quality of life expenses. The DD Council took the lead in introducing SB 265 by drafting the legislation, recruiting the sponsor, testifying in support at house and senate hearings, and disseminating information to build support for SB 265.
For more information, click here to view John Kitchen's FAQ guide about ABLE Act Accounts.
The Council is also currently working on improving the regulations on speech-language pathologists and assistants. There is a push for more stringent qualification and supervision requirements for those providing speech-language assistant services, and the Council supports this movement.
Yet another ongoing concern of the Council is the use of electrical stimulation devices (ESDs), and especially the use of these devices in schools. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed banning ESDs, which are currently legal in some states for the treatment of aggressive or self-injurious behavior. The FDA has found the risks of using ESDs far outweigh any possible benefits, not to mention that the use of these devices is dehumanizing, and violates the DD Act’s mandate for individuals with disabilities to be able to “live free of abuse, neglect, financial and sexual exploitation, and violations of their legal and human rights.” The Council supports the FDA’s proposed ban, including new devices and those already in use.