NEW YORK (WKBW) — There is a new voice in state government for people living with disabilities.
Governor Kathy Hochul has named Kimberly T. Hill as the state's first chief disability officer. The primary task of the office is to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities and implement laws that prevent discrimination against the community.
"This is an historic day. I will call this also a day that is long overdue," Gov. Hochul said on Monday.
Governor Hochul signed a bill in a press conference that was streamed live.
"People with living with physical, developmental psychiatric sensory, mobility disabilities and housing issues. The complication behind getting something as simple as a home that meets your needs," Gov. Hochul explained.
This new office will also represent the disabilities communities on issues like homecare and nursing facility transition and emergency preparedness and disaster response.
This is a prerequisite for what is to come for the state's disabilities community as she said she plans to invest, with the support of the legislature, a $25 Billion affordable housing plan with thousands of units for supportive housing.
"We as a nation are responsible for making them heal from. That is our obligation as fellow Americans. 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," Gov. Hochul said.
People Inc. associate vice president of public affairs, Kevin Horrigan, is looking forward to the doors this will open for the disabilities community. The non-profit provides help for people with special needs.
Horrigan said, "The crisis we face with direct support professionals and their pay, the crisis we pay with people with disabilities that have trouble finding employment, the crisis we face in the area of housing. She's addressing all those items just in her very short time of five or six months in office."
"I think the appointment is good because it would finally give somebody the hope that there is somebody connected with the governor who is listening," NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities advocate, BJ Stacio said.
Excitement filled the two during our Zoom interview because they shared this will set the tone for New Yorkers for years to come, and hopefully set an example for other states to follow suit.
"All that the people with disabilities want is to work and be a part of the communities that they live in," Stacio said.
Newly-appointed Kimberly Hill has an extensive background in advocating for people with disabilities. She previously served as Director of the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, which focused on people with physical and sensory disabilities.
She also coordinated 24 legislative Disabilities Awareness Days for the assembly, where hundreds of people gathered annually to inform legislators, staff and others about disability issues.