February: Disability Services
New York City has nearly one million people who identify as people who are living with a disability and there are also millions of people with disabilities who visit the city every year. This February, ABNY is highlighting young professionals who are working to make New York the most accessible city in the world and ensuring that the rights and concerns of the disability community are included in all initiatives, programs, and policies. Congratulations to Edward Friedman and Rebecca Lamorte and thank you for your hard work advocating for the rights of people with disabilities.
My parents were incredibly effective supporters throughout my childhood, deftly navigating the DOE’s complex bureaucracy to ensure that I got the necessary disability accommodations I was legally entitled to and went to some of the best schools in the City. My time as part of the Law and Society major at Brooklyn Tech HS (Class of 2014) and later as an undergrad at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter, CUNY (Class of 2018) helped to galvanize my passions for law and policy. Professionally, former MOPD Commissioner Victor Calise took me under his wing at a very young age and taught me how to effectively advocate for both myself and to push for increased accessibility from within government. I am incredibly grateful to now be a student at YLS and look forward to paying all of this support forward as a future attorney.
Throughout my time as an intern and then later as full-time staff in NYC government, I would like to think we helped ensure disability was at the forefront of the City’s agenda. Local Law 27 of 2016 established Disability Service Facilitators within every City agency to serve as points of contact for the disability community. The TLC passed first-of-its-kind wheelchair accessibility mandates in the for-hire vehicle sector. Our State partners at the MTA established their first-ever Systemwide Accessibility team, invested an unprecedented nearly $6B in station accessibility in the current Capital Program, and worked with the City to update zoning laws to build subway elevators through public-private partnerships. Mayor de Blasio signed an Executive Order codifying MOPD’s ever-updating responsibilities and the annual AccessibleNYC report documents all of this work, but there is so much more to do to ensure full accessibility.
The disability community is the world’s largest minority and a microcosm of society’s incredible diversity where almost everyone has different needs and desires. Accessibility is cross-cutting and affects each and every area of policy from employment, to housing, to transportation, and even efforts to limit plastic straws. Meet people where they are and do your very best to assist them by not only providing the bare minimum reasonable accommodations required by law, but also seeing what else you can do to be fully inclusive. Networking has served me well in my own professional life thus far and I would also strongly encourage folks to reach out to people whose career trajectories interest them (I am available via LinkedIn). Disability advocates are some of the best people I have ever met and we all have a lot to learn from each other’s life experiences.
New York is and always will be my home. My parents are Jewish refugees who met in Brooklyn after each immigrating to the United States with their families in 1989 as teenagers from Moscow and Kyiv respectively in the former Soviet Union. I was born in a Manhattan hospital and spent my entire life living in Brooklyn until moving to New Haven, CT in 2021 to attend YLS. I remain deeply involved in NYC politics as well as the local disability community, and look forward to returning to the City full-time after obtaining my JD. New York is the greatest city in the world, and I hope to use my Yale Law degree to continue to help make it the most accessible city in the world.
I was pushed on the subway on December 7, 2013, and that day changed my life as it relates to becoming a person with a disability and my ongoing advocacy work for disability justice, accessibility, and inclusion. While it was one of the darkest days of my life, it’s also the brightest because it put me on a path to the rewarding and important work I do today for disability rights and services.
I’m most proud of my 2021 New York City Council campaign. While I was not successful in winning the election, I ran the only campaign centered on disability justice and was the only candidate injecting disability rights into every policy conversation – shifting the paradigm of engagement and inclusivity on political campaigns and policy making long term.
Don’t take no for an answer, and often the “no” in disability advocacy and services comes from a place of discrimination, ableism, and inaccessibility. We are valuable and matter as disabled people, and our voices, experiences, and perspectives need to be a part of every conversation so never let someone silence you or make
When I was born! New York is in my blood – growing up on Long Island frequenting the city and then moving to Manhattan in 2009, I’ve never not felt like or identified as a New Yorker. My ‘New Yorker’ comes out extra strong though when I’m in a different city or state waiting too long for a coffee or can’t find anything open after 6pm.