Katie Wright informed me yesterday that the Commissioner of the New York City Office for the Disabled Matthew Sapolin died this week. In 2010, NAA NYC Metro honored me with their Spirit of Hope award and Commissioner Sapolin presented the award, along with Sabeeha Rehmin. He actively sought to improve the lives of people living with autism in New York City. Our condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.
From The New York Times: Matthew P. Sapolin, the Bloomberg administration’s disabilities commissioner, died of cancer on Tuesday. He was 41.
Mr. Sapolin, whose death was confirmed by the mayor’s office, had served as commissioner for the Mayor’s Office for People With Disabilities since the post was created in 2006. In that role, he pushed to make New York City’s building code more accommodating to people with disabilities, created a mentoring program and led an effort to freeze rents for some disabled New Yorkers.
Mr. Sapolin was also blind. Friends and colleagues said that while Mr. Sapolin’s blindness informed his life, it did not narrow it. He was an accomplished wrestler, a versatile musician, a formidable chess player and an occasional skier.
“His mother told him, you go to school and you’ll learn, and that’s it,” said Carol Robles-Román, deputy mayor for legal affairs. “You’re going to school with everybody else, and they’re going to treat you like everybody else.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Mr. Sapolin executive director of the Office for People With Disabilities in 2002. Four years later, Mr. Bloomberg decided to elevate the job to the level of commissioner, and Mr. Sapolin rose with it.
At age 5, Mr. Sapolin lost his sight to bilateral retinoblastoma, a cancer that affects the optic nerve. Mr. Bloomberg’s office said he had battled cancer ever since, and it was that disease that killed him, a rare form called leiomyosarcoma. Read the full obituary HERE.