October 4, 2022
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Launches First Annual New York State Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month

Governor Hochul Launches First Annual New York State Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month

Symposium and Virtual Job Fair to Feature State Agencies, Private Employers and Non-Profit Organizations Committed to Hiring People with Disabilities

Governor Issues Proclamation Designating October as Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month

Legislation (S.7578-C/A.8549-C) Enables the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities To Establish Voluntary Training and Certification Program for Employers That Hire People With Disabilities

Legislation (A.8915-B/S.7746-B) Creates a New Threshold for What Percentage of a Preferred Source Contract Must Be Performed by New Yorkers With Disabilities

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Governor Kathy Hochul today launched New York's first annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month Symposium, featuring both a full day event consisting of a vendor fair, workshops, entertainment and award presentations, and will also offer an online job fair aimed at highlighting the state's commitment to supporting the rights of people with disabilities in the workplace next Tuesday, October 11. Governor Hochul also signed legislation (S.7578-C/A.8549-C) that will enable the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities to establish a voluntary training and certification program for employers that hire people with disabilities; and another law (A.8915-B/S.7746-B) that creates a new threshold for what percentage of a preferred source contract must be performed by New Yorkers with disabilities.

"For the New York Dream to be a reality, we must continue making our state inclusive, integrated and accessible for all," Governor Hochul said. "Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month recognizes how far we've come toward this end and a realization that there is more work to be done to expand the rights of people with disabilities and ensure they have the same opportunities in the workforce as all New Yorkers."

The Governor also issued a proclamation launching the first annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month and the 'DREAM' Symposium, aimed at acknowledging the rights of New York's disability community, including the right to equal employment opportunities. The two-day event that began today featured an in-person vendor fair with more than 70 private, public and not-for-profit organizations and will continue next Tuesday with a virtual job fair consisting of more than 100 businesses interested in hiring people with disabilities and almost 8,000 job openings.

The symposium featured four workshops related to employing people with disabilities:

  • The ABLE Program in New York State
  • An Overview of OPWDD's Proposed 5.07 Plan - 2023-2027
  • New York State's Civil Service 55 B & C Programs
  • Work Incentives for People with Disabilities

Also as part of the symposium, the state recognized the achievements of two advocates whose work has helped ensure that people with disabilities are served in the most inclusive, integrated and accessible manner possible to meet their needs. Brad Williams, the executive director of the New York State Independent Living Council, was given the DREAM Lifetime Advocacy Achievement Award, while Kristin Booth Glen, a retired university professor and dean emerita at CUNY School of Law, was presented with the DREAM 2022 Advocate Award. The event also featured FLAME the Band, a group of musicians with disabilities who performed at the Empire State Plaza Concourse.

In advance of the symposium, Governor Hochul signed legislation (S.7578-C/A.8549-C) that directs the state Office for People With Developmental Disabilities to establish a voluntary training and certification program for employers that have taken the agency's EmployAbility pledge. The voluntary training program will promote techniques and strategies employers can implement to increase diversity through hiring of people with disabilities.

State Senator John Mannion said, "We know there is a direct correlation between the Preferred Source program, employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and billions of dollars in economic activity. My pieces of legislation expand the program and create new guidance and certification to help businesses connect with and support employees with disabilities. I'm hopeful this can open the floodgates with job opportunities for a community that experiences a dreadful 70 percent unemployment rate. These bills are part of my commitment to building a New York that is more fair, just, and equal and I am deeply appreciative of Governor Hochul's partnership and leadership."

Assemblymember Chris Burdick said, "As chair of the subcommittee for Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, I have learned so much about the many barriers to employment for this population. My two bills, A8549and A8915, will help to incentivize and encourage companies to hire people with disabilities. Thank you to Governor Hochul and OPWDD Commissioner Neifeld for their collaboration in making real progress in this area. We aren't yet where we need to be, but these bills are a step in the right direction."

Governor Hochul also signed legislation (S.7746-B/A.8915-B) that modernizes the preferred source statute and creates a new threshold for what percentage of such contracts must be performed by New Yorkers with disabilities or otherwise qualified persons to receive this status. The new law establishes a standard that 50 percent or more of the work from a preferred source contract must be performed by people with disabilities and sets threshold for discretionary spending at $100,000 without approval from the state Office of General Services.

Chief Disability Officer Kim T. Hill said, "It is incumbent upon us to protect and uphold the rights that people with disabilities want and deserve, including the right to gainful, productive, integrated, and necessary employment. Together we must strive to improve opportunities and protect the rights of people with disabilities to lead fully integrated lives in our communities, which will lead to successful employment outcomes, career advancement and entrepreneurship for people with disabilities and truly make our state inclusive for all New Yorkers."

In addition, an exhibition on disability rights and employment awareness is on display in the Governor's Reception Room on the New York State Capitol's second floor until Nov. 4. The exhibit honors the rich history, challenges, and accomplishments of the disability rights movement, and the protections, services and supports that have been achieved in New York State.

The exhibition features images and stories of New Yorkers who fought and continue to fight for rights, including the wheelchair used by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Executive Mansion during his tenure as Governor. A panel version of the exhibit will be on display in the Empire State Plaza today as part of the symposium.

Under Governor Hochul's leadership, New York State is reinvigorating the original Employment First Commission and its goals to reinforce a strong commitment to vastly improve the employment rate for people with disabilities. Established in 2015, New York's Employment First Policy is a tool for government, community agencies, and advocacy organizations to work collaboratively to increase the employment rate of New Yorkers with disabilities receiving services by five percent.

Earlier this year, Governor Hochul also established the state's first-ever Office of the Chief Disability Officer to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities. This new office is helping to 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.

Hill, who was appointed chief disability officer in February, collaborates with the state's chief diversity officer in the Executive Chamber to further strengthen a comprehensive approach across the state. She also coordinates the state's implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and serves as the chair of the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council.

Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Kerri Neifeld said, "People with intellectual and developmental disabilities can and should play a vital role in our state's economy as they represent a largely untapped pool of employees who are ready, willing and able to work. OPWDD is proud to partner with the Chief Disability Office and its sister agencies to help all New Yorkers achieve dignity and economic independence through meaningful employment."

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, "A diverse and inclusive workforce is the key to success and the DOL remains committed to ensuring equitable opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Every New Yorker deserves the chance to find a career they love and National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a great opportunity for businesses to examine their policies and practices, and showcase inclusion efforts."

Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, "The Office of Mental Health is committed to supporting the recovery process for individuals living with mental illness through competitive, integrated employment. In addition to the economic benefits, employment fosters a sense of independence, strengthens self-esteem, provides coping strategies for psychiatric symptoms, and offers opportunities for personal development. I thank Governor Hochul and Chief Disability Officer Kim Hill for convening New York's first annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month celebration where we commit to make New York a leader in promoting the rights of and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. OMH continues to collaborate with state agency partners to enhance vocational, educational, employment and training programs for people with disabilities."

Department of Civil Service Commissioner Timothy Hogues said, "Under Governor Hochul's leadership, the Empire State has made dramatic strides to create and strengthen opportunities for all New Yorkers, dismantling barriers to social and economic mobility and promoting equal opportunity for all. The Department of Civil Service is pleased to be part of the first New York State Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month to highlight the public service career opportunities that are available for people with disabilities. Through programs such as the Governor's Program to Hire Individuals and Veterans with Disabilities, we are creating pathways to state service for individuals and veterans with disabilities. We look forward to working with our state agency partners to continue to build a public workforce that can best serve the interest of all New Yorkers."

Office of Children and Family Services Commissioner Sheila Poole said, "Our agency recognizes the tremendous value of a diversified workforce - one that also includes people with disabilities. OCFS hosts the state Commission for the Blind, whose mission is to enhance employability, maximize independence and help develop the capacities and strengths of people who are blind and visually impaired. The Commission is one state partner providing comprehensive employment and training to youth and adults to enable adults to obtain higher-quality jobs. Programs focus on meaningful employment so that individuals can lead fulfilling, productive lives. We work closely with the Department of Labor and career centers to improve the accessibility to systems for blind job seekers with assistive technology and technical assistance."

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

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