DISABLED NEW YORKERS TO GOVERNOR HOCHUL: A CHIEF DISABILITY OFFICER WITHOUT A STAFF IS TOKENIZING; SIGN A3130/S1836 AND REINSTATE THE OFFICE OF THE ADVOCATE FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday December 15, 2021
CONTACT: Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs, Center for Disability Rights, 518-362-7916 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Yesterday, the Executive Chamber posted a job description for a Chief Disability Officer (CDO). The Center for Disability Rights and others in the Disability Community are gravely concerned that this signals Governor Hochul intends to veto critical legislation reinstating the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities.
Similar legislation reinstating the Office of the Advocate for People with Disabilities passed in 2019 but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo who used an announcement about creating this position to blunt criticism he would face for vetoing the bill. Disability rights advocates have also noted that the job description for the Chief Disability Officer posted by the Hochul administration does not include any mention of supervising staff and are concerned what that means.
“Look at that job description. One person can’t possibly address all disability-related issues in a state government with a budget of more than $200 billion,” said Zach Garafalo, Manager of Government Affairs at the Center for Disability Rights. “Without a staff, the job is undoable which demonstrates that it is intended to be nothing more than token representation. It is a slap in the face to the Disability community.”
“One Disabled person cannot represent all of the communities who identify as people with disabilities. Although we deal with a common oppression – ableism – our experience of that oppression is very different based on the individual’s personal experience,” said Bruce Darling, President/CEO of the Center for Disability Rights. “No single person has the expertise or bandwidth needed for all of this work and frankly, if the Hochul administration hires one Disabled person for the CDO position without reestablishing the Office of the Advocate, every disability group that does not feel adequately represented by that single person will be angry.
“That would be as offensive as Governor Hochul hiring one person of color in her administration and announcing that her administration is representative of all people who experience racism. She should know better,” added Rebecca Payton, Senior Director of Independent Living at the Center for Disability Rights.
The Center is concerned that because Governor Hochul’s team lacks any representation of people with disabilities, they don’t understand the issues faced by the Disability Community and why this Office is needed. “The concern about Governor Hochul vetoing this bill illustrates the need for an Office of the Advocate. Without Disabled people in her administration, she has non-disabled people making decisions about us without us. That’s universally understood by the Disability Community as wrong,” said Garafalo. Even if she isn’t initially inclined to sign the bill reinstating the Office of the Advocate, I challenge Governor Hochul to meet personally with representatives of our community before making that decision. After hearing our concerns directly, instead of being filtered through her non-disabled staff, I truly believe she will sign our bill and address this.”