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Bill creates NYS Office of the Chief Disability Officer

Gov. Kathy Hochul with Kim Hill
Gov. Kathy Hochul with newly appointed Chief Disability Officer Kim Hill on Feb. 14, 2022. Photo: Mike Groll / Office Of Gov. Kathy Hochul

New York Governor Kathy Hochul has signed a bill to establish the Office of the Chief Disability Officer to advocate for people with disabilities. She has appointed Kimberly T. Hill as the state’s first Chief Disability Officer.

Hochul held a bill signing ceremony around 1:15 p.m. at Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley in Troy. The signing of Bill A. 3130/S. 1836 officially created the Office of the Chief Disability Officer in New York State.

“My administration is committed to protecting the right of all New Yorkers to live and work in our state free from the fear of discrimination,” Governor Hochul said. “It is critical that we prioritize the protection of our most vulnerable communities, and the new Office of the Chief Disability Officer will ensure we remain accountable to the pursuit of a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable New York.”

In 1983, the State Office of the Advocate for the Disabled was established through Executive Order 26. The primary task of the office was to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and implement laws that prevent discrimination against the community.

However, the function and responsibilities of the office was to a large extent absorbed into a different body when the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQC) was established in 2011. The CQC was then disbanded when the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (The Justice Center) was created.

While there have been many advances in the services available for people with disabilities, it is critical to prioritize the needs of the entire disability community, which includes individuals with physical sensory, mobility, intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, with a Chief Disability Officer who leads a well-resourced office.

Office for People With Developmental Disabilities Acting Commissioner Kerri Neifeld said, “At OPWDD, we applaud Governor Kathy Hochul for continuing to show people with disabilities across New York State that they have a strong and supported voice in her administration. The appointment of a Chief Disability Officer will not only provide a driving force to uphold the rights of all New Yorkers with a disability, but this new position will also help ensure that people can live as independently as possible within the community of their choice fully supported to achieve their individual goals, and help break down silos and ensure people can access the supports they need.”

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “The appointment of a Chief Disability Officer for New York State is a most welcome step toward meeting the vital goal of ensuring fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility for New Yorkers with special needs. This is an opportunity for New York State to increase awareness about disabilities and change perceptions. The Governor has made a great choice for the State’s first Chief Disability Officer. No one is more qualified for the post than Kimberly T. Hill, with her extensive background in advocating for people with disabilities.”

Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, “OCFS is celebrating the appointment of a chief disability officer for our state. Ensuring against discrimination of and advocating for the needs of people with disabilities will create an empowering equity and inclusivity culture statewide. And the disability community’s needs will be incorporated into policies, which is vital. OCFS is particularly pleased since the New York State Commission for the Blind falls under our purview.”

Office of Children and Family Services’ Commission for the Blind Associate Commissioner Julie Hovey said, “We are very pleased to support the office of the Chief Disability Officer. This is exciting and a needed resource to assist people with disabilities to excel personally and professionally in New York State. People with disabilities should have full access to all that New York State has to offer, and together, we can create new opportunities as well as a greater understanding of the importance of true accessibility. The Commission thanks Governor Hochul for her strong commitment to help blind and visually impaired New Yorkers.”

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