Senate Advances Bills on Persons with Disabilities and Homelessness

BOSTON (3/2/20) — Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently joined her colleagues in passing two bills that update state laws to reflect the phrase ‘persons with disabilities,’ and create a process for homeless adults or minors to apply for a state identification card.

“The passage of these bills reflects the Senate’s commitment to standing up for every single resident in Massachusetts regardless of ability or socioeconomic background,” said Friedman. “I’m proud of the Senate for advancing these important initiatives which seek to humanize and acknowledge members of our society who are often unable to advocate for themselves.”

Friedman voted in favor of legislation that would update terminology and investigative practices related to the protection of persons with disabilities. The bill would change the current name of the Disabled Persons Protection Commission to the Commission for the Protection of Persons with Disabilities. It would also update language throughout the Commission’s statue to reflect appropriate person-first language by replacing ‘disabled person’ with ‘person with a disability’ each time it appears.

This bill would also make administrative improvements to the Commission, which serves as an independent state agency tasked to protect adults aged 18 to 59 with disabilities from abuse through investigation, oversight, public awareness, and prevention. Among those changes, the legislation would enable the Commission to streamline and enhance operations. Additional improvements would also increase protections for persons with disabilities, including improving interagency collaboration for extreme risk cases and codifying an expanded definition of what constitutes abuse.

Friedman also voted in favor of a bill that would provide identification to homeless youth and families. The legislation would break down a major socio-economic and administrative barrier for the Commonwealth’s homeless population by directing the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to implement a specific, burden-free, no-cost process for persons experiencing homelessness to acquire state identification cards. The legislation would eliminate the fee for obtaining an identification card and empowers the Registrar to accept alternative residency documentation such as by a homeless service provider or other state agency department.

A report by Continuums of Care to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that as of January 2019 an estimated 18,471 people were experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts. Another study in 2019 commissioned by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services identified 3.789 unaccompanied homeless youth across the state in 2018.

Both bills now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.