At the headquarters of Westchester Disabled on the Move, Inc. (WDOMI), County Executive George Latimer joined advocates and legislators to sign into the law legislation creating an advisory council on people with disabilities.
Latimer said: “This is a beginning, not an end. The creation of this body will allow for dialogue with people from all circumstances about policy, legislation and funding priorities. This is the first step of which the fruits will be seen in decisions made going forward.”
Latimer and Westchester County Government as a whole are committed to improving the quality of life for Westchester County residents and visitors with disabilities. The Board of Legislators unanimously passed the legislation forming this advisory board which creates an entity that can advise the County Executive and the Board on issues relating to people with disabilities. This includes recommending legislation, funding priorities and programs as well as reviewing County policies, procedures, practices and programs for their impact on people with disabilities and provide input, when appropriate, to improve them.
WDOMI Executive Director Melvyn R. Tanzman MSW, CSW said: “This law is going to empower people with disabilities to play an active role in making our County more accessible and a great place for people with disabilities to live, work, study and enjoy. The County’s goal to include all residents in an open manner gives life to a phrase the disability community uses often ‘nothing about us without us.’”
The newly formed committee will be comprised of 19 members appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the Board of Legislators - most having certain disabilities or being a representative of an organization that provides services to people with such disabilities. Those disabilities include intellectual/developmental disability, physical disability, blindness/legal blindness, deaf or hard of hearing, mental health disability, autism, and learning disability.
Commissioner of the Office for People with Disabilities Evan Latainer said: “I thank the County Executive and the Board of Legislators for this opportunity. I believe this council is long overdue and is going to be a chance for us to partner with advocacy agencies and individuals to move these issues forward.”
Commissioner of the Office of Community Mental Health Michael Orth said: “The structure of this new committee will work because we will bring the various disability communities together to look at trends and issues that together we can take on.”
Board Chair Ben Boykin said: “I'm proud that we have created the Advisory Council on People with Disabilities. It will be a crucial resource that recommends legislation, identifies program priorities, and helps us review county policy and procedures so that we can better serve people with disabilities and their families in Westchester County.”
Legislator Nancy Barr, Chair of the Board’s Environment Health and Energy Committee, said: “The County’s advisory boards and councils provide the framework which allows the government to hear the voices and the needs of people and elicit their input. This Council on People with Disabilities is especially important, as it will enable the county to better help disabled residents and their families navigate the challenging and ever-changing landscape of services and support.”
Legislator Kitley Covill, Chair of the Board's Social Services Committee said: "It's our job in county government to protect and provide the necessary support to all county residents, including people affected by disabilities. With this new Council, county offices and departments tasked with those jobs will be communicating directly with other county departments and provide a more holistic informative exchange of advice and information with residents with disabilities, families, and advocates."
Watch full press conference HERE.