2nd Annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Symposium

(WNY News Now) – The Empire State Plaza recently hosted the second Annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month Symposium as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, focusing on the rights and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in New York State.

NYC – The second Annual Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month Symposium took place at the Empire State Plaza, drawing attention to the crucial rights of individuals with disabilities and continuing the dialogue on enhancing employment prospects for this demographic across New York State. The event, led by Chief Disability Officer Kim Hill Ridley and her team, commenced with a video message from Governor Hochul and remarks by First Gentleman William Hochul. Dignitaries from various state agencies, including the Department of Labor, Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, Office of Mental Health, Office of General Services, Department of Civil Service, Office of Children and Family Services/Commission for the Blind, Education Department/ACCES-VR, Workers’ Compensation Board, and the New York State Division of Human Rights, graced the occasion.

Chief Disability Officer Kim Hill Ridley expressed her pride in the progress achieved under Governor Hochul’s leadership this year and emphasized the importance of bringing together stakeholders, advocates, service providers, and agencies to address the rights and needs of people with disabilities.

The event featured a job fair, mock interviews, a vendor fair, bocce rounds with Special Olympians, a screening of the documentary “The Path Forward – Remembering Willowbrook,” and six workshops on disability employment-related topics. These workshops covered essential subjects such as New York State’s Civil Service 55 B Program, inclusive internships in government, employment services by OPWDD, benefits counseling, resume/interview preparation, and embedding accessibility in diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Additionally, the event highlighted a public awareness campaign aimed at combatting discrimination and stereotyping of individuals with developmental disabilities.

Two distinguished awards were presented during the symposium: the DREAM 2023 Advocate of the Year Award to Harvey Rosenthal, CEO of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, and the DREAM 2023 Lifetime Advocacy Award to Simeon Goldman, General Counsel of Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley.

Kerri Neifeld, Commissioner of the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, emphasized the role of individuals with developmental disabilities in growing the state’s economy and lauded the collaborative efforts to promote inclusive employment.

Margarita Larios, Executive Director of the New York State Office of Language Access, commended the transformative work of the Governor’s Office of the Chief Disability Officer in advancing equity for all New Yorkers.

The Office of the Chief Disability Officer, established in 2022, advocates for the needs of individuals with disabilities, ensuring that state policies and programs cater to their requirements, regardless of disability type. For more information, visit the Office of the Chief Disability Officer’s website and contact their office directly.

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