February 14, 2022
Albany, NY

Audio, Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces the Creation of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer

Audio, Video, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Announces the Creation of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer

Governor Hochul: “What I'm going to be doing in our budget is authorizing state agencies to designate up to 1200 positions, be filled by qualified people with disabilities. Let's give people a real shot, a meaningful chance. And that will include up to five hundred positions for people who are qualified wartime veterans with disabilities.”

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the establishment of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and appointed Kimberly T. Hill as the State’s first Chief Disability Officer.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the Governor's remarks is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

And this is an historic day. It truly, truly is. And I will call this also a day that is long overdue. And to all the advocates who never gave up the fight to recognize that the disability community, and it is vast, it is influential and it has a voice that needs to be heard, that finally we have an office.

Yes, you can clap for that because...


And I’ll be talking about someone who is no stranger and is so... I've gotten more compliments from selecting Kim Hill than anything I've done as governor, so I'm feeling good about that.

First of all, Denise Figueroa, I want to thank you for being such an incredible champion for people who sometimes just need a little bit of hope and people who believe in them and believe in their possibilities. And that's what this is all about as – new role as Executive Director of the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley.

And I also want to thank the champions that we have in elected office. And you have many, many friends and allies, and that would be Senator James Skoufis, who you'll be hearing from – the sponsor of this bill. Phil Steck is the Assemblymember who's also the Assembly sponsor not able to be here, something came up that he just could not get out of, but he sends his appreciation to everyone involved in this, in this long journey. As well as John Mannion, the Chair in the Senate of the Committee on Disabilities, John Mannion. And Tom Abinanti, Chair of the Committee on People with Disabilities in the Assembly, so thank you very much. I think he's on his way. John McDonald, our local Assemblymember. And of course our mayor of Troy, Pat Madden. And I just saw, as I was coming up here, the Whistling Kettle. We've had a cup of tea there a few times.

And so – you don't know this, but when I'm not sitting in Albany I’m probably slipping around Troy. I love the restaurants, the burgers at Slidin’ Dirty and walking the streets, it's a wonderful, vibrant community and I just love coming here, and this, and having this center in this place is an important statement that this is an integration with a downtown community that is really coming back.

And so, the symbolism of that is, is truly powerful. You know, we think about the fact that New York State has not had this position in a permanent way. And that is an oversight – a decision that has now been corrected. But it's just been inexcusable when you think about that, I mean, why not? And I also hold ourselves to very high standards here in the State of New York.

Whenever I think about a single policy. My first question is, does anybody else doing this? What's going on in other states? I mean, how do we measure up in terms of our metrics, and how we're serving our people? Because we are the Empire State, and every area we touch has to be a model for the rest of the nation. We should always be the best.

And in this is an area that I have examined closely. And when you think about the fact that our employment levels for example, are not what they should be. Look at the fact that 35% of people with disabilities, 18 year to 64, living in New York State, are employed. 35% employed, that puts us at 38th out of 50 in the nation. That's not the category of statistic that I'm real proud of. So I know we can do better there. We also have to talk about the fact that 30% of individuals live in poverty. Another area that needs an intense focus. That should not be a statistic that exists, after several more years of focus on this.

I want to make sure that we are among the best in serving these communities as well. And people living with physical, developmental, psychiatric, sensory, mobility disabilities, they have had to endure a lot. And housing issues. I mean, the complication behind getting something as simple as a home that meets your needs. And I'm investing, with the support of the legislature, hopefully in a few more weeks, we'll get this through the legislature, a $25 billion dollar affordable housing plan. Within that, tens of thousands of units for supportive housing. We need to make sure that we are meeting people where they are. 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. That is what I'm pushing for as well.

I also having spent time in Congress as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and on that journey it took me to places like Afghanistan, but really had me be embedded with the individuals once they returned from that service. And so many individuals went there, young people full of life who, because of a deployment, or multiple deployments, they return either with physical or psychological disabilities that we as a nation are responsible for helping them heal from. That is our obligation as fellow Americans. And we need to make sure that we're providing housing for veterans and more supportive services, as well as employment for our veterans with disabilities as well. They have unique needs. They've been through a unique experience, and we need to recognize that. Again, meeting people where they are with their life's experiences.

And so, how do we do that? Well, we get a superstar. We find someone whose passion and reputation is stellar, nationally known, and when I say I'm putting people in place, I want them to be national leaders. I want the rest of the country, when they have a conference on how we deal with the disability community overall, and how we meet people and meet their needs, I want them to say “Let's look to New York because New York is making a difference.” And very quickly. Those of you who are getting to know me, I'm the most impatient person you’re ever going to meet. I’m like, this should have been done yesterday.

And I have a person at my side who is going to do that. And that is Kim Hill. Kim is going to be our state's very first Chief Disability Officer, our Chief Disability Officer. We know her because she served for the New York State Assembly, our standing committee on people with disabilities. She served as the Director of the Assembly Task Force as well. And she just has that demeanor and those relationships that are already existing, that are going to truly benefit us as we speak.

There's other areas we can do as well as I've now set the bar very high for you, Kim, very high. I have no doubt that you'll meet this. But also we've made other investments in high need areas. $240 million dollar increase in investing in schools for children with disabilities.

Also, I want New York State to be a model employer. I've looked at other states. I've talked to Governors. I've talked to Lieutenant Governors in the seven years I was Lieutenant Governor. And I know that there's others who are breaking territory that we've not yet accomplished. Let's see what's out there. Let's be the model that other states look to. And I believe we can get there.

And also what I'm going to be doing in our budget is authorizing state agencies to designate up to 1200 positions, be filled by qualified people with disabilities. Let's give people a real shot, a meaningful chance. And that will include up to five hundred positions for people who are qualified wartime veterans with disabilities. You're also going to be coordinating our response to the implementation of American with Disabilities. You'll also be chairing the most integrated setting, coordinating council. I'm going to fill up your days and make sure that we are not only compliant with Olmsted, but also, as I said, becomes a model.

And that is what I'm very excited about. We're also going to expand the New York State Commission for the Blind's Business Enterprise Program. We're going to take care of that. We have more work to do there and I really do believe in tremendous potential there. So, all New Yorkers deserve the best. They deserve the best representation in government. They need a champion who is directly in the governor's office, part of the chamber so there's direct accountability, which I think is important. I know it’s important.

And because the buck ultimately stops with me. But I will be judged by not just what I do, but how all of us can respond to the needs of this community, which as I said has been overlooked for far too long. And Kim, you are the person I have trusted. High confidence, and we're going to working very closely together. And so bring me ideas, bring me the innovations, bring me the ideas that come out of this community, but also what's happening in other states and indeed around the world.

We need to be the best. Whatever we need to do, we have to be the best because we are the Empire State. Our motto is Excelsior, and that is what I'm looking to aspire to. So ladies and gentlemen, let me present to Kim Hill, our very first Chief Disability Officer.

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