May 9, 2022 (Reposted from NYAPRS ENews)
Reprinted from State’s First Chief Disability Officer Tackles Post-COVID-19 Priorities By Megan McGibney City and State May 9, 2022
Armed with funding provided in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $220 billion budget, the state’s first chief disability officer will begin addressing the most pressing needs of New Yorkers with disabilities.
Advocates for people with disabilities said employment and housing issues in the aftermath of the pandemic would be the greatest priorities for Kimberly Hill, who has been serving as chief disability officer since she was appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in February.
A report by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last year found that unemployment rates for people with disabilities in New York between April 2020 and March 2021 rose more quickly and remained higher during the outbreak than the overall unemployment rate.
“Historically, when there are economic and other types of crises, people with disabilities often are the first to be terminated, last to be rehired,” said Jan Fisher, executive director of Nonprofit Westchester. “Employment inclusion is probably one, if not the first, of the issues that the disability community, across disabilities, is concerned about.”
Todd Vaarwerk – the chief policy director of Western New York Independent Living, a nonprofit that serves the Genesee Region – said transportation to work alone can be especially challenging, since a person with disabilities who lives in a less populated area may have fewer travel options for getting to a job. He said he would like for Hill to explore these types of granular employment issues before looking into the data of which companies hire persons with disabilities.
Emily Papperman, an advocacy specialist at the Finger Lakes Independence Center in Ithaca, said Hill also should focus on helping people with disabilities clear hurdles that prevent them from landing jobs that align with their interests.
“Folks with disabilities should be able to find work that they enjoy,” she said. “(Hill) should really have conversations about what those barriers to employment are, and what folks with disabilities want to do. Instead of going, ‘OK, here’s a bunch of people with disabilities. Let’s just put them in a certain place.’ They should be needed and valued because they have skills.