New Jerseyans with an autism spectrum disorder gained two laws recently which, it is hoped, will give them a better chance to lead meaningful, productive and independent lives.
The first of the new laws, A-4226, expands New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, the Law Against Discrimination, to ensure that no one who has autism and related neurological disorders is denied access to libraries, restaurants, gyms, pools, theaters and other public accommodations. It also guarantees equal access to housing and jobs.
The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et. seq. (LAD), was one of the first anti-discrimination laws in the country. The LAD makes it unlawful to subject people to differential treatment based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, ancestry, age, sex (including pregnancy), familial status, marital status, domestic partnership status, affectional or sexual orientation, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, genetic information, liability for military service, and mental or physical disability, perceived disability, and AIDS and HIV status. The LAD prohibits unlawful discrimination in employment, housing, places of public accommodation, credit and business contracts.
The second law, A-4225, allows adults to join the state autism registry, established so New Jersey health officials can track cases and look for trends. The voluntary registry was initially open only to children, who are added by health professionals.
The two new laws join another law passed in 2009 to give greater protections to NJ residents with autism spectrum disorders, the Autism Insurance Reform Bill, S. 1651/A. 2238. The Autism Insurance Reform Bill mandates insurance coverage for expenses incurred in screening and diagnosing autism; coverage for expenses incurred for medically necessary behavioral interventions for the treatment of autism in individuals under 21 years old; and coverage for expenses incurred for medically necessary physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services for the treatment of autism.
New Jersey has the country’s highest rate of autism, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.