BINGHAMTON, NY – A local disability rights organization is pushing Governor Hochul to reinstate a state office that helped to oversee compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Southern Tier Independence Center is calling for Hochul to sign legislation passed unanimously by the legislature this year that would bring back The Office of the Advocate.
The office was first created by Governor Mario Cuomo in the 1990’s.
However, his son Andrew Cuomo first moved it to the Justice Center and later disbanded it while he was governor.
STIC Executive Director Maria Dibble says what took its place was a patchwork of advocates working out of agencies that represent people with developmental disabilities, mental health concerns and substance use disorders rather than an umbrella watchdog looking out for people with all types of disabilities.
Dibble says the office would provide unbiased legal opinions for individuals with disabilities as well as businesses, state agencies and the broader community.
“When the old advocate’s office was in place, there were lawyers there who understood the ADA and were going out and doing trainings so that everybody else would understand it. They represented comprehensive, neutral information. That is really important that people get neutral information that is not biased by an agency’s opinion or something else,” says Dribble.
A spokesperson for Governor Hochul says her office is reviewing the legislation.