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New York has first Chief Disability Officer

Governor Kathy Hochul announces the creation of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer in Troy. She named Kim Hill, right, as the first person to lead the office.
Mike Groll/Mike Groll/Office of Governor Ka
Governor Kathy Hochul announces the creation of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer in Troy. She named Kim Hill, right, as the first person to lead the office.

Governor Kathy Hochul created a new state Office of the Chief Disability Officer, and named the first person to lead that office, something she says is long overdue.

Kim Hill, a long time state assembly staffer working on disability issues, will head an office located in the executive chamber, which means she will be in contact directly with Governor Hochul and her top aides.

Hochul says New York ranks 38th of the 50 states in the percentage of people with disabilities who have jobs. She says just 35% are fully employed, and 30% live in poverty. She says the new position is long overdue.

We think about the fact that New York State has not had this position in permanent way, and that is an oversight,” said Hochul. “It’s just been inexcusable.”

Hill, who uses a wheelchair, called it “the honor of lifetime”, and says she’s eager to focus attention on issues like the lack of affordable and available home health care.

She says she wants to “bring the voices and priorities of all people with disabilities to the forefront” and work towards a more “integrated, inclusive and accessible New York.”

New York does have a state agency for people with developmental disabilities, but there is no one entity that deals with people with other kinds of disabilities.

Hochul says she would like to see 10% of the state’s workforce be comprised of people with disabilities.

And the governor say she’s including , as part of a $25 billion dollar housing plan in her state budget, 10’s of 1000’s of units for supportive housing.

“They need to not just have a roof over their head, but, sometimes, that also allow them to excel in that environment,” Hochul said.

Denise Figueroa, who leads the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley in Troy ,where the announcement was held, says the “disability community has waited many years for a voice in state government”.

“We’ve been waiting for a long time for this to come,” Figueroa said.

New York previously had an Office for the Advocate for the Disabled, created under former Governor Mario Cuomo, in 1983. Under the tenure of his son, former Governor Andrew Cuomo, the office was absorbed into the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities. That entity was eventually disbanded, and replaced by another office, the Justice Center for the Protection of People With special needs, which has had an uneven track record.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.