Lex Frieden Employment Awards
The Lex Frieden Employment Awards are named in honor of disability rights champion and independent living movement leader, Lex Frieden. One of the chief architects of the Americans with Disabilities Act, he is the UT Chancellor’s Health Fellow on Disability, a professor of biomedical informatics and rehabilitation at the UT Health Science Center- Houston, and director of the Independent Living Research Utilization Program (ILRU) at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital.
The Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities has worked to highlight the outstanding efforts of employers to hire and retain employees with disabilities for over thirty years. The Lex Frieden Employment Awards (LFEA) are held each October to coincide with National Disability Employment Awareness Month; by recognizing these best practices in hiring and accommodation, GCPD hopes to help build an inclusive, accessible work environment for all Texans with disabilities. When an employer makes creating a supportive work environment a centerpiece of their philosophy, everyone benefits! Lex Frieden Employment Award winners are employers who see themselves as community partners, and enthusiastically promote and pursue business opportunities for people with disabilities. For more information on LFEA categories and entry forms, continue below.
2020 Lex Frieden Award Winners
Governor's Trophy: Professor Brian Shannon, Texas Tech University School of Law
The Governor's Trophy is awarded to the person who has achieved the highest success in enhancing the empowerment and employment of Texans with disabilities. This award recognizes long-term commitment and outstanding efforts at both the community and state level. GCPD is proud to honor Professor Brian Shannon as this year's winner.
Professor Shannon has made significant contributions to disability rights across the broad spectrum of disability, but he is most known for his work at the intersection of mental health and the legal system. As noted in his nomination, his focus on destigmatizing and empowering people whose mental health diagnoses have led them to interface with the criminal justice system has been invaluable to countless individuals. Addressing this stigma is the first step toward realizing meaningful employment opportunities. Professor Shannon currently serves on the board of StarCare Specialty Health System, the Lubbock region's local mental health authority. He is also an appointee to the State of Texas Judicial Commission on Mental Health. Respected by lawyers, clients, and the general public alike, his contributions to the disability field are commendable.
Martha Arbuckle Award: The EPIC of Grand Prarie
This award honors the most innovative local disability committee project and is presented in memory of Austin's long-time disability advocate, Martha Arbuckle. The partnership between Grand Prairie's The EPIC and Grand Prairie ISD has created an environment where students and adults with disabilities can work to learn skills key to achieving competitive employment. Participants also learn valuable independent living skills that will allow them to lead more inclusive, self-directed lives. This partnership allows students graduating from GPISD to build relationships in their community that will follow them through their adult lives resulting in better post-secondary outcomes and quality of life.
The Entrepreneurship Award: Chris Landry and Ken Brown, Scan Mailboxes (Austin)
This award is presented to a living entrepreneur with a disability who has shown extraordinary ingenuity and drive in creating and sustaining a successful business. The 2020 award is shared between Chris Landry and Ken Brown, business partners and founders of Scan Mailboxes. Both men are profoundly deaf, and have used their business to help close the employment gap for other deaf individuals. Their business allows customers to create virtual mailboxes for their physical mail; all mail is delivered to the Scan Mailboxes address, scanned, and delivered to the customer's email address. The Scan Mailboxes offices provide an excellent example of accessibility; while all of the employees are deaf, computers are set up for communications like Video Relay Service (VRS) and the office is equipped with an alert system to let staff know when patrons come to the office.
Large Employer: Fidelity Investments (Westlake)
Consistently ranked as one of the best places to work for disability inclusion, Fidelity Investments has a workforce of 45,000 people and is constantly striving to become as accessible and inclusive as possible. Among the many notable innovations they've made to better recruit and retain employees with disabilities, they have completely changed how and who they hire. They recognize that the traditional hiring process can screen out qualified, talented applicants and have partnered with their regional providers to create a more inclusive screening process. The Fidelity BELONG Fellowship works to recruit interns with disabilities, while their Enable Employee Resource Group (ERG) provides important outlets for employees as well as things like disability etiquette training.
Medium Employer: Weikel's Bakery and Store/Recipeasy (La Grange)
Weikel’s Store & Bakery provides work opportunities for students and adults with disabilities, English Language Learners, and others. Their locations have acted as work-based learning sites for Project Search students, allowing students and young adults with disabilities to learn the skills necessary to become bakers. The philosophy at Weikel's is "Everyone is capable of working with proper training"-- something reflected in the Recipeasy app created by Philip Weikel, which makes learning to bake accessible for people with disabilities. While they use the app to train staff in their stores, they've also taken their software and training to other bakeries, cafes, and restaurants to help these businesses employ people with disabilities.
Small Employer: Mr. Gatti's Pizza (Tyler)
Since opening in Tyler under the ownership of Lamar Wedell, Mr. Gatti's has worked closely with Texas Workforce Solutions, Community Rehabilitation Providers, and local school districts to provide a supportive and nurturing environment for students with disabilities to develop job skills. Students are provided with uniforms and treated as employees. Whenever possible, students trained at Mr. Gatti's are encouraged to apply and are often hired. In addition to hiring employees with disabilities, they hold a Sensory Sensitive Event with reduced lighting and sound levels to make their restaurant more inviting to people on the Autism spectrum and those with other sensory disabilities.
Non-Profit Employer: Goodwill Industries (Fort Worth)
Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion for employees and the people they serve throughout the community. The company mission is to empower people with disabilities, disadvantages, and other barriers to employment so they can achieve maximum independence. They have multiple ongoing initiatives aimed at hiring and training people with disabilities, including running the Summer Earn & Learn Program. Through Summer Earn & Learn, Goodwill Fort Worth served 160 students for the 2019 program. While their programs this year could not function in the same way, Goodwill was able to pivot and provide employment services by offering Pre-Employment Training Services and Camp Independence curriculum online.
How to Submit a Nomination
Nominations are currently closed. Please submit the appropriate Entry Form for your nomination.
Category Descriptions and Entry Forms
- 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 to:
Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
P.O. Box 12428
Austin TX 78711
512-463-5739 - Phone
Dial 711 for Relay Services
512-463-5745 - Fax
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.
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: