Bill Text: NY A01721 | 2019-2020 | General Assembly | Introduced


Bill Title: Prohibits the making of decisions concerning guardianship, custody or visitation or adoption petitions solely on the basis of a parent's, guardian's or custodian's blindness; prohibits the department of social services from denying, deciding or opposing a petition or request for guardianship, custody or visitation solely because the petitioner is blind and prohibits the department of social services from taking actions solely because a parent, custodian or guardian is blind.

Spectrum: Slight Partisan Bill (Democrat 26-9)

Status: (Introduced) 2019-01-16 - referred to judiciary [A01721 Detail]

Download: New_York-2019-A01721-Introduced.html


                STATE OF NEW YORK
        ________________________________________________________________________
                                          1721
                               2019-2020 Regular Sessions
                   IN ASSEMBLY
                                    January 16, 2019
                                       ___________
        Introduced  by M. of A. SIMON, COLTON, CRESPO, GALEF, GOTTFRIED, MOSLEY,
          L. ROSENTHAL, BENEDETTO, BLAKE, ORTIZ, WEPRIN, LUPARDO, QUART, JAFFEE,
          GOODELL, D'URSO, TITUS, JOHNS, ZEBROWSKI, LAWRENCE, MONTESANO,  STECK,
          ABINANTI,  M. L. MILLER,  HYNDMAN  --  Multi-Sponsored  by -- M. of A.
          ARROYO, BLANKENBUSH, COOK,  CROUCH,  HEVESI,  MALLIOTAKIS,  McDONOUGH,
          PRETLOW, SEAWRIGHT -- read once and referred to the Committee on Judi-
          ciary
        AN  ACT to amend the domestic relations law and the family court act, in
          relation to prohibiting the making of decisions  concerning  guardian-
          ship,  custody or visitation or adoption petitions solely on the basis
          of a parent's, guardian's or custodian's blindness; and to  amend  the
          social  services  law,  in  relation  to prohibiting the department of
          social services from denying,  deciding  or  opposing  a  petition  or
          request  for  guardianship,  custody  or visitation solely because the
          petitioner is blind and to prohibiting a local social services  agency
          from  taking actions solely because a parent, custodian or guardian is
          blind
          The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and  Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:
     1    Section  1.  This  act  shall  be known and may be cited as the "blind
     2  persons right to parent act".
     3    § 2. Legislative intent. The legislature finds the following:
     4    a. All blind Americans have the right to found a family, to freely and
     5  responsibly decide on the number and spacing of their children,  and  to
     6  retain  the  custody  of  their offspring on an equal basis with others.
     7  This right to parent is rooted in the due process clause  of  the  Four-
     8  teenth  Amendment;  however,  blind  people  are often stripped of these
     9  constitutional rights when state statutes, judicial decisions, and child
    10  welfare practices are based on the presumption that  blindness  automat-
    11  ically means parental incompetence.
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                                   LBD01687-01-9

        A. 1721                             2
     1    b.  The presumption that blindness automatically means parental incom-
     2  petence is a misconception. Given the proper tools and education, blind-
     3  ness can be reduced to a physical nuisance. Because many sighted  people
     4  do  not  understand  the  techniques that blind people use to accomplish
     5  everyday  tasks,  sighted  judges,  social  workers,  and state official
     6  assume that those tasks cannot be completed by a blind  person.    Using
     7  alternative  techniques, blind people are capable of living independent,
     8  productive lives, which include providing  safe  and  loving  homes  for
     9  their  children.  For  example, blind people put small tactile dots over
    10  markers on stoves, washing machines, and other  flat  surfaces  so  that
    11  they  can independently operate those devices. Specific to raising chil-
    12  dren, blind parents may have their young children wear a small  bell  on
    13  their  shoes so the child's location can be known to the parents.  Blind
    14  parents will also pull a stroller  behind  them  rather  than  push  the
    15  stroller  in  front  of  them so their long white cane or guide dog will
    16  find obstacles or enter an intersection before the child and stroller.
    17    c. When sighted parents are involved in  a  guardianship,  custody  or
    18  visitation  proceeding,  their parental capabilities and how those capa-
    19  bilities affect the best interest of the child are thoroughly  evaluated
    20  through a careful review of evidence. Too often, however, judges summar-
    21  ily  dismiss  a blind parent's capabilities under the misconception that
    22  blind people are incapable of most anything, despite evidence on  record
    23  proving  otherwise.  Blind  parents  involved  in these proceedings must
    24  first overcome any bias or low expectations of the judge, and then  also
    25  provide  evidence  negating  those  misconceptions  above and beyond the
    26  normal burden placed on sighted parents.
    27    d. Widespread misconceptions about blindness  often  trigger  a  state
    28  agency to act, unsolicited, against the wishes of a blind parent. One of
    29  many  countless, devastating reports of discrimination occurred in 2010,
    30  when the state of Missouri wrongfully deemed a blind  couple  unable  to
    31  care  for  their  2-day old daughter, who remained in protective custody
    32  until the family was reunited after a 57-day battle. These  parents  had
    33  done  nothing  to demonstrate parental incompetence other than happening
    34  to have had a child and been blind, and yet the agency solely considered
    35  their blindness and decided to take action. In fact, the  Missouri  case
    36  and  many  others,  the parents had voluntarily contacted social service
    37  officials themselves in order to  seek  advice  and  assistance  and  to
    38  ensure that all of their child's needs were being met, but instead found
    39  themselves stripped of custody. Thus, hasty actions on the part of state
    40  social  welfare  officials  can  discourage  blind  parents from seeking
    41  services and assistance for which they and their children are eligible.
    42    e. During custody proceedings in cases of divorce, where one parent is
    43  blind and the other is sighted, the sighted parent will often try to use
    44  the other parent's blindness as a tool to deny the blind  parent  custo-
    45  dial  rights. Because custody proceedings related to a divorce are often
    46  hostile, the court should demand that each party demonstrate evidence of
    47  the other party's incompetence. However, courts often  assume  that  the
    48  sighted party is accurate in portraying the blind parent as incompetent,
    49  and  make custody and visitation decisions based solely on the fact that
    50  one parent is blind. These decisions can range from limiting or  denying
    51  visitation  unless  a  sighted  person is present at all times to simply
    52  denying the blind parent all custodial rights. This is not only  discri-
    53  minatory;  it denies the blind parent a fair chance at custody and opens
    54  courts to manipulation.
    55    § 3. The domestic relations law is amended by  adding  a  new  section
    56  75-m to read as follows:

        A. 1721                             3
     1    §  75-m.  Consideration  of  blindness during guardianship, custody or
     2  visitation proceedings.  1. The court may not deny or decide a  petition
     3  for  guardianship,  custody  or  visitation solely on the basis that the
     4  petitioner is blind. The blindness of the petitioner shall be considered
     5  relevant  only  to the extent that the court finds, based on evidence in
     6  the record, that the blindness affects the best interests of  the  child
     7  whose  guardianship,  custody  or visitation is the subject of the peti-
     8  tion.
     9    2. As used in this section, "blind" or "blindness" means:
    10    a. vision that is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye; or
    11    b. vision that subtends an angle of not greater than twenty degrees in
    12  the best corrected eye.
    13    § 4. The domestic relations law is amended by  adding  a  new  section
    14  111-d to read as follows:
    15    §  111-d.  Consideration  of blindness during adoption proceedings. 1.
    16  The court may not deny or decide a petition for adoption solely  on  the
    17  basis  that  the  petitioner  is  blind. The blindness of the petitioner
    18  shall be considered relevant only to the extent that  the  court  finds,
    19  based  on  evidence  in  the record, that the blindness affects the best
    20  interests of the child whose adoption is the subject of the petition.
    21    2. As used in this section, "blind" or "blindness" means:
    22    a. vision that is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye; or
    23    b. vision that subtends an angle of not greater than twenty degrees in
    24  the best corrected eye.
    25    § 5. The family court act is amended by adding a new  section  643  to
    26  read as follows:
    27    § 643. Consideration of blindness during adoption proceedings. 1.  The
    28  court may not deny or decide a petition for adoption solely on the basis
    29  that  the  petitioner is blind. The blindness of the petitioner shall be
    30  considered relevant only to the extent that the court  finds,  based  on
    31  evidence in the record, that the blindness affects the best interests of
    32  the child whose adoption is the subject of the petition.
    33    2. As used in this section, "blind" or "blindness" means:
    34    a. vision that is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye; or
    35    b. vision that subtends an angle of not greater than twenty degrees in
    36  the best corrected eye.
    37    §  6.  The  family court act is amended by adding a new section 658 to
    38  read as follows:
    39    § 658. Consideration of  blindness  during  guardianship,  custody  or
    40  visitation  proceedings.  1. The court may not deny or decide a petition
    41  for custody or visitation under this part  or  guardianship  under  part
    42  four  of  this article solely on the basis that the petitioner is blind.
    43  The blindness of the petitioner shall be considered relevant only to the
    44  extent that the court finds, based on evidence in the record,  that  the
    45  blindness  affects  the  best interests of the child whose guardianship,
    46  custody or visitation is the subject of the petition.
    47    2. As used in this section, "blind" or "blindness" means:
    48    a. vision that is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye; or
    49    b. vision that subtends an angle of not greater than twenty degrees in
    50  the best corrected eye.
    51    § 7. The social services law is amended by adding a new section 393 to
    52  read as follows:
    53    § 393. Consideration of  blindness  during  guardianship,  custody  or
    54  adoption proceedings. 1. The department may not deny, decide or oppose a
    55  petition  or  request for guardianship, custody or visitation under this
    56  article solely on the basis that the  petitioner,  parent,  guardian  or

        A. 1721                             4
     1  custodian is blind. The blindness of the petitioner, parent, guardian or
     2  custodian  shall  be  considered  relevant  only  to the extent that the
     3  blindness affects the best interests of the  child  whose  guardianship,
     4  custody or visitation is the subject of the petition.
     5    2.  The  department  shall not seek custody or guardianship of a child
     6  solely because the child's parent, guardian or custodian is  blind.  The
     7  blindness of the parent, guardian or custodian shall be considered rele-
     8  vant only to the extent that the blindness affects the best interests of
     9  the  child  whose  guardianship, custody or visitation is the subject of
    10  the petition.
    11    3. As used in this section, "blind" or "blindness" means:
    12    a. vision that is 20/200 or less in the best corrected eye; or
    13    b. vision that subtends an angle of not greater than twenty degrees in
    14  the best corrected eye.
    15    § 8. The commissioner of social services is authorized and directed to
    16  promulgate rules and regulations necessary for the implementation of the
    17  provisions of this act on or before its effective date.
    18    § 9. This act shall take effect on the ninetieth day  after  it  shall
    19  have become a law.
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