FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Contact: Alex Thompson, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Albany, NY – We congratulate Governor Hochul on signing a package of bills yesterday to help address some of the issues impacting people with disabilities. This is an encouraging sign, and an improvement over previous Governors. We strongly urge the Governor to create a systemic fix, and have a prospective vision, on addressing ongoing issues impacting people with disabilities on a daily basis. Fortunately, the Legislature also recognized the need for a systemic fix by unanimously passing A.3130/S.1836 to establish State Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities (OAPWD). We call on Governor Hochul to sign this bill into law as well when it is transmitted for her consideration.

In fact, the bills signed by the Governor yesterday are prima facie evidence of why the OAPWD is essential. If the OAPWD was in place, and had not been vetoed by Governor Cuomo in 2019, it would have undoubtedly advised the Governor on the issues addressed in these bills:

  1. The need for a support person to accompany a person with a disability to a hospital if necessary;
  2. Policies would have been in place throughout COVID so that the needs of people with disabilities would have been affirmatively addressed, and lives would have been saved., This would reduce the need for an after the fact DDC evaluation of what happened, and would have impacted all people with disabilities, not just the intellectually disabled; and
  3. The Civil Service Commission, and all other relevant agencies, would have been already advised on the need to improve the hiring of people with disabilities.

Governor Hochul said yesterday, "The bills I'm signing into law today will ensure people with disabilities are supported in health care, employment and beyond. Working together, we'll make sure our recovery from the pandemic includes every single New Yorker." We agree these bills are a step toward creating more supports, but it falls short of establishing systemic change like establishing an OAPWD would do to address ongoing, future critical needs, and time sensitive matters. The Governor can complete the circle and endorse prospective solutions by signing the OAPWD bill into law.

The OAPWD would 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 and making constructive recommendations on them.

Meghan Parker, Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL): “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. Concerns about COVID-19’s impact on people with disabilities would have been prospectively addressed had the OAPWD been in place all along”.

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

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 https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/governor-hochul-signs-package-legislation-help-individuals-disabilities

About NYAIL – The New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL) is a statewide membership organization of Independent Living Centers (ILCs), community-based not-for-profit providers of advocacy, services and supports for New Yorkers with disabilities of all ages. ILCs are controlled by, and largely staffed by, people with disabilities. NYAIL strengthens local Independent Living Centers and is a leader in the civil rights movement for all people with disabilities.