Advocates for people with disabilities in New York are cheering the approval of a pair of laws by Gov. Kathy Hochul meant to expand employment opportunities.
Hochul this week approved a bill that will create a voluntary training and certification program for employers who hire people with disabilities. She also approved a measure that is meant to create a new threshold to expand what kind of work is performed by people with disabilities under preferred source contracting.
Hochul's approval of the measures came as the state is also recognizing October as Disability Rights and Employment Awareness Month.
"For the New York Dream to be a reality, we must continue making our state inclusive, integrated and accessible for all," 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."
People with intellectual or developmental disabilities have far higher unemployment than the rest of the state's population.
Maureen O'Brien, the president and CEO of New York State Industries for the Disabled praised the approval of the measures, calling it a vastly needed update to the law.
"The Preferred Source Program works but has needed updating after 50 years," she said. "With the support of our legislative champions and the leadership of Governor Hochul – including appointing the state’s first chief disability officer, the outstanding Kim Hill – we will be able to put more New Yorkers with disabilities to work in competitive integrated employment. A win for everyone.”
The preferred source contracting program is meant to ensure a certain percentage of government contracting reaches vulnerable populations. A report issued last year by the Rockefeller Institute think tank found non-profit disability service providers reported more than $14 billion in economic output and support nearly 200,000 full-time jobs in the state.