FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 13, 2021

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The legislation now awaits Governor Hochul’s signature

(Albany, N.Y.) – Earlier this year, the New York State Assembly and Senate unanimously passed bills A.3130 (Steck)/S.1836 (Skoufis) to reinstate the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities into the New York administrative structure of agencies.

Originally established by Governor Mario Cuomo through Executive Order, the Office of the Advocate was intended to provide a formal voice within state government for New Yorkers with disabilities. The Office helped develop policies to ensure the State met the access needs of people with disabilities. The Office also served as the State’s coordinator for the implementation of Section 504 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and compliance with the June 22, 1999, United States Supreme Court decision in Olmstead v. L.C. which concluded that unjustified segregation of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, the vital advocacy functions of this office were moved to the Justice Center, then ultimately dissolved altogether. While there are state agencies that address individuals with specific diagnoses, there is no state agency charged with meeting the needs of the Disability Community in general and large segments of the Disability Community are left without a state agency addressing their needs and representing their interests in state government.

A.3130/S.1836 addresses that problem. The Office of the Advocate will serve as the state's coordinator for the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, coordinate state activities to ensure that state programs do not discriminate against and are accessible to persons with disabilities, and ensure that such programs provide services to individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate. Additionally, the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities will represent the interests of the Disability Community in state government by reviewing proposed legislation and regulations to determine their impact on persons with disabilities.

This bill passed in 2019, but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. The disability community is counting on Governor Hochul to reprioritize the needs of the disability community in New York State government once again.

Meghan Parker, Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) responded to news of the bill’s passage: “We have been urging the State to re-authorize this office for several years now as a necessary replacement for the advocacy and services that have largely disappeared. Re-opening and funding the Office of the Advocate has been a top legislative priority for the disability rights community and we are happy the Legislature has recognized how important this Office is to New Yorkers with disabilities and their families.”

“We expect Governor Hochul will recognize the needs of the disability community has been largely ignored for the past decade and will sign this critical legislation as a first step to righting this wrong,” added Lindsay Miller, NYAIL’s Executive Director. “New York State can be a leader in ensuring the rights and access needs of disabled people are fully considered and addressed and signing this critical legislation is an important first step.”