Office of the Governor - Greg Abbott

Disabilities Header

Lex Frieden Employment Awards

About the Awards

The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is proud to announce that the annual employment awards have been renamed after disability rights champion and independent living movement leader Lex Frieden, one of the architects of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

front and back of Lex Frieden medallion

Frieden is the UT Chancellor's Health Fellow on Disability, a professor of biomedical informatics and rehabilitation at UT Health and director of the Independent Living Research Utilization Program (ILRU) at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital. He was appointed by President George W. Bush as chair of the National Council on Disability in 2002, and also served an eight-year term on the United Nations Panel of Experts on the Standard Rules for Disability. Frieden is author or co-author of more than 60 articles on independent living, disability rights and rehabilitation. He has received two Presidential Citations for his work in the field of disability, and was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the National University of Ireland in 2004.

Since 1979, the Governor's Committee has worked to highlight the efforts of employers to hire and retain employees with disabilities, and to recognize Best Practices that positively affect employees with disabilities within the workplace.  An employer whose philosophy is to support employment opportunities for all Texans, including people with disabilities, benefits the local community as well as the state. The attitude of working as a partner in the community is considered a strength to be highlighted and encouraged by the presentation of our annual Employment Awards. The active and enthusiastic promotion of business opportunities for people with disabilities is also an important element in the consideration of the award.

Each year during the month of October (National Disability Employment Awareness Month), a local committee in Texas hosts the Annual Employment Awards Ceremony, and the winners in each of several categories are introduced to an appreciative audience. Award categories include large, medium, and small employers, as well as non-profit employers, the Entrepreneurship Award, Martha Arbuckle Award and the Governor’s Trophy.

Download and print a Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure in PDF format

Download and print Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure information in Word format

The Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure is also available in large print upon request.

Read about previous Lex Frieden Employment Awards Winners.


How to Submit a Nomination

Nominations are due by July 15 of each year. Please submit the appropriate Entry Form for your nomination. See Submission Guidelines for more information.

The group and individual categories are:

The Martha Arbuckle Award recognizes the most innovative local committee project, and is presented in memory of Austin's long-time disability advocate Martha Arbuckle.

Employer Awards are given in four categories - Small Employer (25 or fewer employees), Medium Employer (26 to 500 employees), Large Employer (more than 500 employees), and Non-Profit Employer. Each category serves to recognize employers in Texas who have fostered a diverse and accessible workplace and who have developed innovative ways to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace.

The Entrepreneurship Award is awarded to a living entrepreneur with a disability who has shown extraordinary ingenuity and drive to create and sustain a successful business that has created jobs and accessible services.

The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded to the person who has achieved the highest success in enhancing the empowerment and employment of Texans with disabilities. The Governor's Trophy recognizes long-term commitment and outstanding efforts at both the community and state level.

Nominations, including self-nominations, in any of these categories are encouraged. A completed submission form specific to the category, along with any supporting material, can be sent by email or postal mail to:

Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
P.O. Box 12428
Austin TX 78711

512-463-5740 - Phone
512-463-5746 - TDD or Dial 711 for Relay Services
512-463-5745 - Fax
Contact Jo Virgil for more information.


2015 Awards Ceremony

The 2015 Lex Frieden Employment Awards luncheon ceremony will be held in Fort Worth on Wednesday, October 21, 11:30am, at the Fort Worth Convention Center, hosted by the Fort Worth Mayor’s Committee on People with Disabilities. For more information and to purchase tickets or sponsorships, visit the LFEA ceremony Registration site at http://www.fwmcpd.com/2015-lex-frieden-awards-luncheon.html. You may also contact the FWMCPD Planning Chair, Sherley Spears, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 817-392-7768, or send a message to Jo Virgil or call GCPD at 512-463-5740.


2015 Lex Frieden Employment Award Winners

The Governor's Trophy

Brian East, Senior Attorney, Disability Rights Texas (Austin)
Brian East, Senior Attorney, Disability Rights Texas – Austin office As Senior Litigation Attorney at the non-profit legal advocacy agency Disability Rights Texas (DRTX), Brian East advances the empowerment and employment of Texans with disabilities each day through his legal representation of employees with disabilities across Texas, as well as through his advice, research, writing, and educational efforts on a local, state, and national level. He serves on the DRTX statewide team of attorneys that handle civil rights cases involving disability-related discrimination in various contexts, including employment, housing, accessibility, transportation, and voting. Brian has been a committed and influential disability-rights lawyer for many years. He joined DRTX in 1996 and has significant experience locally, statewide and nationally. His passion and commitment has directly improved, and continues to improve, the lives of persons with disabilities through his legal work, and he has assisted others in doing that work as well. Many governmental, legal, and non-profit organizations draw on Mr. East as a valuable resource of knowledge and expertise in disabilities law, as an ally in mediation/litigation, or in outreach and public education efforts. Brian East is considered by many to be one of the premier disability law advocates in Texas and the entire country.

Entrepreneurship Award

Thomas R. Schenck, Licensed Professional Counselor (Fort Worth)
Tom Schenck is the owner of a professional corporation that provides counseling and consulting services for individuals, families and groups. The group services are conducted in the North Texas area at four Independent Living Service Centers; he travels about a thousand miles a month to reach all the centers. He began working with individuals and families in 1992 after successfully obtaining a second masters degree (Art of Counseling) and earning his Licensed Professional Counselor certification. Mr. Schenck’s specialty is working with individuals with disabilities, helping them to fully accept their disability, and promoting a positive attitude toward a healthy perspective and independence. He also helps parents of children with disabilities, stressing the importance of not being overprotective and teaching processes that can help the child can become more independent. Mr. Schenck says his goal is to pay forward to others the support he received in his childhood when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and to help people discover their own goals and abilities. He also strives to educate all people on how to honor with dignity individuals with disabilities. As Mr. Schenck says, “There are many steps to accepting and taking full responsibility for one's disability circumstance before that person is set free to be themselves fully."

Large Employer Award

Bank of America (Statewide offices)
The leadership of Bank of America feels they are best able to serve their customers, clients and communities with a workforce that represents true diversity, including people with disabilities. Their mission includes a focus on hiring diverse talent, partnering with more than 200 schools, colleges, universities and external diversity organizations. BofA has a robust group of twelve Employee Networks with more than 200 chapters and over 70,000 members around the world, including networks for employees with disabilities. This year, BofA was a sponsor of the 2015 Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America and the World Games in Los Angeles; employees of Bank of America have volunteered more than 40,000 hours to Special Olympics. The company consistently works to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace using workforce development, employment and retention practices, and other innovative approaches. BofA’s Disability Advocacy Network supports employees with disabilities, as well as family members, friends, and customers and clients with disabilities. Bank of America strives to maintain active participation in the company’s recruting events, support services, employee networks, accommodation services, ADA training for all staff, and many other programs to ensure full inclusion in all aspects of the workplace.

Medium Employer Award

Home Depot #6548 (Keller)
Home Depot Keller has partnered with Easter Seals North Texas (ESNT) to assist job-seekers with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment in the community. Home Depot has an Associate Services Coordinator (ASC) who conducts the recruiting and hiring process, and upon hire, the ASCs always go above and beyond legal requirements for job-seekers with disabilities to ensure that orientations, trainings and Human Resource processes are delivered in a manner that is accessible and fully understandable. Home Depot Keller keeps an open attitude to suggestions made regarding accomodations and is committed to long term placements. Typically, employees with disabilities at Home Depot Keller work directly with customers in various capacities, serving as greeters, check out attendants and stockers, as well as assisting in the Garden Center and helping customers carry their purchases to their vehicles. Home Depot Keller is flexible with work schedules and will allow for additional breaks for employees when needed; the management also stays open on adding or removing specific job tasks to accommodate the abilities, skill level and needs of the individual. Locally, Home Depot Keller is a common fixture at various disability-specific job fairs.

Small Employer Award

Sign Shares, Inc. International (Houston)
Sign Shares, Inc./International employs several employees with disabilities, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing and those with low vision. Employees with disabilities engage in educating all staff, including interpreters, regarding access and advocacy needs, and are encouraged to engage the community through their Lunch & Learn sessions, offered to the public to further advocate for access and inclusion, particularly in regards to medical and employment access needs. Employees are provided with sign language, CART, large print materials and other various accommodations for company meetings as well as for events, smaller meetings, and even remote meetings. Sign Shares embodies its philosophy of mutual sharing and Independent Living by having employees with disabilities at all levels – as employees, managers, and even with the CEO/President, who herself has a disability. Interpreters are instructed to follow their tenets out of respect for all parties, and trained to refer anyone needing advocacy assistance to appropriate channels. Sign Shares provided free sign language and CART services to the Texas Statewide Independent Living Conference, and also sponsored some attendees with disabilities to attend the events. They provided communications access at 2015 Capitol visits to speak to legislators following the conference. Sign Shares, Inc./International also advocates for architectural access whenever it is not available, and strives to engage the community at such events as Abilities Expo, the Texas Statewide Independent Living Conference, the Lunch & Learn sessions, and through providing interpretive services and advocacy.

Non-Profit Employer

Texas State Independent Living Council (Austin)
The Texas State Independent Living Council (SILC) is a nonprofit organization authorized for the purpose of planning, monitoring, and evaluating the provision of Independent Living services for all people with disabilities. The SILC Council leads, promotes and advances the Independent Living philosophy, and advocates for the rights of Texans with disabilities. SILC ensures that management makes special efforts to recruit, hire, and promote qualified people with disabilities for various jobs within the organization. To ensure the accessibility of SILC, an ADA checklist is kept for the facility, which consists of a self-evaluation instrument completed by staff. Employees are encouraged to initiate all requests for an accommodation. SILC gives all employees the option to work from home; in addition to the telework program, SILC has a variety of assistive technology for those with or without disabilities, such as JAWS, Dragon Dictate, touchscreen laptops, tablets, heaters for those with low circulation, fans, and air purifier for those with chemical sensitivities to perfumes and aerosols. SILC also has CapTel (caption telephones), low effort keyboards, large computer monitors for those with low vision, webcams for the telecommuters, portable wheelchair battery chargers, portable ramp, etc. The organization has policies that foster an integrated barrier-free environment. With solid policies, accessible accommodations, and a strong mission, SILC is committed to making sure people with disabilities can seek gainful employment and access quality Independent Living services. SILC has an aggressive marketing and outreach campaign that targets a diverse group; during FY15, at least half of the Texas State Independent Living Council employees reported having a disability.

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee Project

Greater Houston Business Leadership Network: Business Symposium and Job Fair (Houston)
In May 2015, the Greater Houston Business Leadership Network (GHBLN) planned and implemented a Business Symposium and Job Fair co-hosted by DARS, Office of Federal Contract and Compliance Program (OFCCP), Veterans Administration, and Workforce Solutions, held at the United Way Community Resource Center in Houston. The hiring event attracted more than 200 veterans, people with disabilities, and various employers seeking qualified applicants. Job seekers had an opportunity to interact with 54 federal contractors from many diverse industries. After the hiring event, employers participated in a business symposium with the purpose of exploring smart solutions for OFCCP compliance, recruiting top talent, and building a diverse workforce. The conference-style event included presentations from guest speakers on communicating the values, benefits, and rewards of hiring veterans and people with disabilities. Other organizations spoke on topics related to vocational rehabilitation and employment, and services available to businesses, including diversity and disability awareness services. The keynote speaker was Robert Shelton of the NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center (JSC). Shelton spoke about a new initiative at the center, the No Boundaries Employee Resource Group, which promotes the development, inclusion, and innovation of JSC's workforce with a focus on employees with disabilities. To encourage other organizations to present similar Job Fairs and Business Symposiums, GHBLN created a guide which includes statewide and regional contact information, available upon request for any interested group. The overall goal of the Greater Houston Business Leadership Network is “Driving Success Through Disability Inclusion.”


Above and Beyond:  Employment Practices

Suggestions for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for ALL people to help make your business or service stand out.

Above and Beyond: Employment Practices in PDF format

Download latest version of Acrobat Reader here

What Can YOU Do to Advance the Employment of People with Disabilities?

In support of the What Can YOU Do? outreach effort, the Campaign for Disability Employment is pleased to present the following video tools. Help us spread the word about the value and talent that people with disabilities bring to the workplace by sharing these videos and playing the Campaign for Disability Employment:
View the “I Can” public service announcement (PSA).
View the What Can YOU Do? Outreach Toolkit.