By Anna Gustafson
Elderly and visually impaired residents will now have a much easier time reading their bills, thanks to a suggestion from Forest Hills High School Principal Saul Gootnick and a student from the school.
State Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and state Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) told hundreds of students at Forest Hills High School last week that the idea for a law they sponsored mandating that companies print their bills in larger font for elderly and visually impaired residents was born in an economics class taught by Gootnick.
“Not only is this law good public policy that will help thousands of senior citizens and visually impaired New Yorkers, but it also validates the hard work and creativity of the young people who came up with the idea,” said Hevesi.
The bill, which was signed into law in August and goes into effect next April, requires all utility corporations, energy service companies, municipalities, telephone corporations and cable television companies doing business in the state to provide large print versions of billing information. The bill stipulates that large print means a font size of 16 or greater.
Gootnick said one of his economics students several years ago came up with the idea after watching his grandmother struggle with deciphering one of her bills because of the small font.
“There was an uproar in my class that companies could get away with this,” Gootnick said.
Students said they were thrilled an idea first thought of in their high school could have such an impact on residents throughout the state.
“This goes to show we students can still influence public policy,” said Mikail Ahmed, a student who spoke before the throng of students in the Forest Hills High auditorium Thursday morning.
Addabbo and Hevesi said they had to do heavy negotiating with various companies, but eventually came through with a piece of legislation that passed in a rocky year for the state Legislature.
“This year in the state Senate we fell apart,” Addabbo said. “A lot of good legislation did not go forward. Amidst all this turmoil in the state Senate, this bill made it through in the worse session the state Senate has ever gone through.”
Paige Kasick, a senior in an honors government class, said the bill “is a really good idea,” and senior Sebastian Gomez said he was also glad the Legislature was able to support seniors and those who are visually impaired.
“I’m surprised there had to be legislation for this,” said Gomez, a student in an AP government course. “Not giving people the ability to see what they’re being charged should be against the law.”
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.