Appoints Kimberly T. Hill as the State's First Chief Disability Officer
Governor Kathy Hochul today 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.
"My administration is committed to protecting the right of all New Yorkers to live and work in our state free from the fear of discrimination," Governor Hochul said. "It is critical that we prioritize the protection of our most vulnerable communities, and the new Office of the Chief Disability Officer will ensure we remain accountable to the pursuit of a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable New York."
In 1983, the State Office of the Advocate for the Disabled was established through Executive Order 26. The primary task of the office was to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities and implement laws that prevent discrimination against the community.
However, the function and responsibilities of the office was to a large extent absorbed into a different body when the Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities (CQC) was established in 2011. The CQC was then disbanded when the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (The Justice Center) was created.
While there have been many advances in the services available for people with disabilities, it is critical to prioritize the needs of the entire disability community, which includes individuals with physical sensory, mobility, intellectual, developmental, and psychiatric disabilities, with a Chief Disability Officer who leads a well-resourced office.
Office for People With Developmental Disabilities Acting Commissioner Kerri Neifeld said, "At OPWDD, we applaud Governor Kathy Hochul for continuing to show people with disabilities across New York State that they have a strong and supported voice in her administration. The appointment of a Chief Disability Officer will not only provide a driving force to uphold the rights of all New Yorkers with a disability, but this new position will also help ensure that people can live as independently as possible within the community of their choice fully supported to achieve their individual goals, and help break down silos and ensure people can access the supports they need."
Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "The appointment of a Chief Disability Officer for New York State is a most welcome step toward meeting the vital goal of ensuring fairness, inclusivity, and accessibility for New Yorkers with special needs. This is an opportunity for New York State to increase awareness about disabilities and change perceptions. The Governor has made a great choice for the State's first Chief Disability Officer. No one is more qualified for the post than Kimberly T. Hill, with her extensive background in advocating for people with disabilities."
Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "OCFS is celebrating the appointment of a chief disability officer for our state. Ensuring against discrimination of and advocating for the needs of people with disabilities will create an empowering equity and inclusivity culture statewide. And the disability community's needs will be incorporated into policies, which is vital. OCFS is particularly pleased since the New York State Commission for the Blind falls under our purview."
Office of Children and Family Services' Commission for the Blind Associate Commissioner Julie Hovey said, "We are very pleased to support the office of the Chief Disability Officer. This is exciting and a needed resource to assist people with disabilities to excel personally and professionally in New York State. People with disabilities should have full access to all that New York State has to offer, and together, we can create new opportunities as well as a greater understanding of the importance of true accessibility. The Commission thanks Governor Hochul for her strong commitment to help blind and visually impaired New Yorkers."
New York State Chief Diversity Officer Julissa Gutierrez said, "It is an honor to welcome Kimberly T. Hill to lead the State's new Office of the Chief Disability Officer. This announcement is a testament to Governor Hochul's commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion across the State. Representation matters and this announcement also demonstrates the importance of centering leaders with lived experiences. I'm looking forward to working with Kim, who is an expert in this field and a tireless advocate for people with disabilities."
Office for the Aging Acting Director Greg Olsen said: "I applaud Governor Hochul for establishing the Office of the Chief Disability Officer, and Kim Hill is the perfect pick to lead it. I’ve known Kim for decades, having worked alongside her in the Assembly and through the establishment and implementation of the Most Integrated Setting Coordination Council (MISCC). Approximately 30 percent of New Yorkers age 60 and over living in the community have a disability. Many are assisted by offices for the aging and local partners, including the network of Independent Living Centers (ILCs) who provide in-home supports and connections to vital resources that promote independence and accessibility. This person-centered approach is a shared responsibility across all state agencies and programs, and Kim is the ideal person to advance this critical work.”
The new Office of the Chief Disability Officer will ensure we remain accountable to the pursuit of a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable New York.
Kimberly T. Hill has been appointed as the State's first Chief Disability Officer. Ms. Hill has most recently served as the Principal Analyst for the New York State Assembly Standing Committee on People with Disabilities. She previously served as Director of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, which focused on issues pertaining primarily to people with physical and sensory disabilities. In that role, Ms. Hill worked with disability advocates, Assembly Chairpersons and staff on several priority issues which led to the passage of bills such as the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC), the Nursing Facility Transition and Diversion Waiver, New York State's Medicaid Buy-In Program, and the codification of Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into State law.
Ms. Hill also coordinated 24 Legislative Disabilities Awareness Days for the Assembly in which hundreds of people gathered annually to inform legislators, staff and others about disability issues and recognized the achievements of people with disabilities and advocates alike. Ms. Hill has been an appointed public member of the MISCC since its creation in 2002. Ms. Hill began her career in State service as a writer for the Assembly's Communication and Information Services Department. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Utica College of Syracuse University and resides in Latham, NY.
Under Kim's leadership, the Office of the Chief Disability Officer will establish New York as a model for inclusivity, integration, and accessibility by ensuring all State policies, programs, and activities truly meet the needs of all people with disabilities. Kim will collaborate with the State's Chief Diversity Officer in the Executive Chamber to further strengthen a comprehensive approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion work across the State. Kim will also coordinate the State's implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and serve as the Chair of the Most Integrated Settings Coordinating Council.
New York State's Chief Disability Officer Kimberly T. Hill said, "It is the honor of a lifetime to serve as New York State's first Chief Disability Officer. I am looking forward to leading a well-resourced Office of the Chief Disability Officer to bring the voices and priorities of all people with disabilities to the forefront and working towards a more integrated, inclusive and accessible New York. Thank you Governor Hochul for this incredible opportunity."
State Senator James Skoufis said, "I am honored to join Governor Hochul in marking this important milestone for the disability community. For too long, millions of New Yorkers lacked the agency-level support they desperately deserved. The creation of this advocacy office means those living with disabilities will finally have a seat at the table and will be able to shape the policies and programs that directly impact their lives each day."
State Senator John W. Mannion said, "By creating the new Office for the Chief Disabilities Officer, Governor Kathy Hochul is building on her record of addressing the pressing issues facing New Yorkers with disabilities. I'm proud to co-sponsor legislation giving people with disabilities a voice at the highest levels of state government. I'm grateful to Governor Hochul for her continued partnership on addressing issues impacting the disabilities community and to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Senator James Skoufis, and Assemblymember Steck for their leadership."
Assemblymember Phil Steck said, "I commend Governor Hochul for seeing the value in this legislation and signing it into law. It is incredible to me that 3 million New Yorkers live with a disability and there has not been a policy advocate who represents their needs in state government. This is a huge step forward for people living with disabilities in New York State. The community will benefit with having Kim Hill in this leadership position."
Assemblymember Tom Abinanti said, "I applaud the governor's quick action in filling the position and appointing Kimberly Hill as Chief Disability Officer. Governor Hochul understands of the need for a dedicated advocate for the disability community who is familiar with the particular challenges faced by New Yorkers with disabilities and what government can do to help."
Executive Director of the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley Denise Figueroa said, "The disability community has waited many years for a voice in state government. We want to thank Governor Hochul for her leadership in creating this office and more importantly for recognizing the need for coordinated policies related to disability. We are eager to work together to set an example for other states to follow."
CEO of the Center for Disability Rights Bruce Darling said, "On behalf of the 7,000 members of the Center for Disability Rights who live in every corner of the state, I want to applaud Governor Hochul for signing this critically important piece of legislation which ensures that Deaf and Disabled New Yorkers are effectively represented in state government and are afforded accessibility in state services."
CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services Harvey Rosenthal said, "Great thanks are due to Governor Hochul for an historic moment that sends a message of hope, commitment and support to over 3 million New Yorkers with disabilities. At long last, we'll have a staff member and office committed to protecting and promoting the rights and needs of our broader community and a governor who's committed to the development of a plan that will set targets to increase housing, employment and transportation offerings across the state."
Director of Advocacy at the New York Association on Independent Living Meghan Parker said, "We thank Governor Hochul for her leadership in creating an Office of the Chief Disability Officer. By establishing this office, Governor Hochul has already distinguished herself as responsive to the needs of the disability community. We look forward to working with the Hochul administration and this office moving forward on tackling the serious issues disabled people are facing across the State."
Chair of the State Committee of Blind Vendors Karen Blachowicz said, "On behalf of the New York State Committee of Blind Vendors, we would like to thank the governor for the creation of the Office of Chief Disability Officer. As mentioned in the Governor's State of the State, the Business Enterprise Program provides employment opportunities for New Yorkers who are legally blind. We applaud her actions on recognizing the hard working blind entrepreneurs in our state and thank her for recognizing the priority that is given to blind vendors under the New York State Randolph Sheppard Act. The New York State Committee of Blind Vendors looks forward to working with the Chief Disability Officer on identifying ways to enhance and expand the Business Enterprise Program."
Executive Director of the Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Dr. Sharon McLennon-Wier said, “Thanks to the Governor’s implementation of the Office of the Chief Disability Officer, the three million New Yorkers with disabilities, including over one million in the New York City area alone, will finally have a direct voice and representation within the State government. This office will allow for people with disabilities to participate in gainful employment, high-quality health and mental health services, education, transportation, and the ability to vote. We look forward to working with the administration to ensure equality and equity for people with disabilities in New York.”
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