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NY Governor Appoints New Chief Disability Officer


Wednesday, February 16, 2022   

More than 3.7 million people with disabilities live in New York, according to the federal government, and they just got a new advocate in the governor's office. Gov. Kathy Hochul has appointed Kimberly Hill as the state's first Chief Disability Officer to advance and advocate policies to support New Yorkers with disabilities.

Sharon McLennon-Wier, executive director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled New York, said she hopes Hill will focus policy recommendations on a few areas - including transportation, health care, housing, education and job creation.

"Preparing people with disabilities to enter the labor market is important," she said, "so having that foundational base of education that leads to gainful employment is critical."

According to the governor's office, only about one-third of New Yorkers with disabilities are employed, and the state ranks 38th in the nation in its employment rate for this group of workers. Through the annual state budget, Hochul also is pushing for $240 million in additional funding for private schools serving children with disabilities.

At a news conference this week, Hochul said her 2022-2023 executive budget also calls for tens of thousands of supportive housing units for folks with disabilities, as part of her broader $25 billion affordable-housing plan.

"We need to make sure that we are meeting people where they are," she said. "They need to have not just a roof over their head, but a roof over their head and services sometimes, that also allow them to excel in that environment."

According to the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, more than 25 million Americans age 5 and older have some form of disability that can limit their ability to travel. McLennon-Wier said the Chief Disability Officer also is tasked with removing barriers for those folks.

"And having any type of barriers within the transportation system is going to prevent you from doing the basest things," she said, "like being able to go vote, being able to go to the supermarket to buy food and being able to get to work on time."

In a written statement, Hill said she's looking forward to "working toward a more integrated, inclusive and accessible New York." Hill has held many roles in state government advocating on behalf of New Yorkers with disabilities, most recently with the New York State Assembly's Standing Committee on People with Disabilities.

Disclosure: Center for Independence of the Disabled New York contributes to our fund for reporting on Disabilities. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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