Featured News - Current News - Archived News - News Categories

Hochul announces reestablishment of council on services to persons deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing


Wed, Jan 17th 2024 04:40 pm

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the reestablishment of the Interagency Coordinating Council on Services to Persons who are Deaf, Deafblind and Hard of Hearing, within the Office of the Chief Disability Officer. The council, comprised of 15 members representing state agencies and community members, will advocate on behalf of persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind.

Christopher Woodfill, formerly an associate executive director at the Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults, will serve as the state's first interagency coordinating council executive director. Interpreter Rachel Cahill has been appointed as the council’s first in-house American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter.

“Upon the appointment of New York state’s first chief disability officer, I committed to increasing access and resources while creating a better quality of life for all New Yorkers with disabilities,” Hochul said. “But this is just the first step. Experts with deep professional and lived experience must inform and lead our agenda. I am proud to reestablish the Interagency Coordinating Council, and welcome Mr. Woodfill and Ms. Cahill’s leadership on key issues affecting the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing communities.”

In his previous role, Woodfill worked throughout New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and prior to that worked with youth as a high school teacher at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf. Woodfill earned his Master of Science in deaf education from McDaniel College, and his Master of Arts in Latin American studies from Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He is also a graduate from the world-renowned Gallaudet University.

Cahill is a nationally certified interpreter (NIC) with 22 years’ experience working with deaf professionals and in higher education, health care systems, and government services. Cahill earned her bachelor’s degree in public communications from the University at Albany. She has also been trained to work with deafblind individuals and in legal environments.

A press release noted the objectives the IAC will be considering include, but are not limited to, the following:

•Meeting with advocacy networks and stakeholders within the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing community to determine their issues and priorities;

•Establishing the Interagency Coordinating Council as the primary vehicle to recommend systematic changes throughout New York state for the deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing communities, giving these individuals the voice in state government that they deserve;

•Pursuing the creation of a sign language interpreter council for the purposes of screening and approving interpreters for licensure, and to adjudicate any issues that may come before the council;

•Seeking to establish a statewide co-navigator program designed to provide environmental information, human guide and communication facilitation for the benefit of all New York deafblind residents;

•Evaluating how 4201 schools (which serve New York’s blind, deaf and severely physically disabled) are funded, and making recommendations on the best allocation of funds for children with additional disabilities, including those having complex medical needs, within the 4201 school system.

•Exploring how to make hearing aids and cochlear implants – and therapies and trainings associated with these support products – more widely available for individuals in need statewide.

More information on the IAC can be found here. Woodfill and Cahill can be reached at [email protected].

Hometown News

View All News