Lex Frieden Employment Awards - Winners

Lex Frieden Employment Awards - Past Winners

2015

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.”


2014

The Governor's Trophy

Celia Hughes, Executive Director, VSA Texas (Austin)
For more than thirty years, Celia Hughes has been devoted to improving the lives of people with disabilities by creating inclusive access to the arts. Committed to the notion that all people deserve the opportunity to learn through, participate in, and enjoy the arts, she has made it her mission to provide cultural opportunities for all. She has been described as a visionary, a grant writer, a newsletter publisher, an event organizer, a staff coordinator, a community collaborator, and an artist in her own right. She has brought forth a more creative and barrier-free community through various ventures, including audio description for blind patrons at local venues through an organization she co-founded, Access Arts Austin; building accessibility into the Bob Bullock History Museum; partnering on the national arena for Access Arts to become an affiliate of VSA; raising funds for the first writing workshop and theatre troupe for people with disabilities in Actual Lives Austin; opening Access Gallery, a showcase for visual and sculptural arts by people with disabilities, including veterans with disabilities; and many other events and activities. She has been known to cut her own salary to keep the work alive, and she works on the premise that everyone, no matter their abilities, has a story to tell and that everyone's story matters.

Entrepreneurship Award

William Hernandez, Per4max Medical (Grand Prairie)
William Hernandez is founder and co-owner of Per4max Wheelchairs and Medical Supply; he uses a wheelchair himself. The company works with customers to personally fit wheelchairs, sports wheelchairs and other medical supplies. Mr. Hernandez employees several people with disabilities as sales people, customer service people, office (bookkeeping) and manufacturing work. He was one of the first two athletes at UTA to come to the University on a wheelchair basketball scholarship, and he completed his degree in Mechanical Engineering. He used his Senior Design Project as the beginning of a business plan that has become Per4max Medical. His original vision was to produce a new and innovative product that would perform and look like no other chair in the market at that time. Mr. Hernandez started Per4max Wheelchairs with a vision of helping people maximize their quality of life by helping them get functional, visibly attractive wheelchairs individually designed with each customer in mind. Along the way, he has worked with Challenged Athletes Foundation, several national level non-profit groups, and teams around the country to help athletes, especially children, get their dream wheelchair.Through the years, Per4max has grown from a small, two person business into a large international business with employees and representatives around the world.

Large Employer Award

AT&T
AT&T considers full inclusion in the workplace to be essential in generating a variety of opinions, ideas, and knowledge. AT&T attracts people with disabilities through targeted automatic recruitment advertising, attendance at disability careers events, and engagement with professional associations. The company has several programs in place to specifically recruit and include people with disabilities, including:
• Project capABILITY, a pro-active program designed to offer supported employment through state and non-profit interaction, where candidates are placed into a pre-training environment. AT&T donates process documents and training material to prep and train the candidates prior to starting in their new positions;
• a partnership with VetConnexx, a strategic supplier owned by a person with a disability, to create the initiative AT&T Serves to promote diversity and inclusion while fostering opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve self-sufficiency and participate fully in the community.;
• the AT&T Global Supplier Diversity Mentoring Program - Operation Hand Salute, which helps mentor, educate and offer contract opportunities to business owners who are veterans with disabilities;
• the AT&T employee resource group (IDEAL), which helps underscore the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace, marketplace and community;
• the AT&T Advisory Panel on Access and Aging, composed of national leaders in assistive technology, aging and cross-disability issues, which provides advice and counsel to AT&T's subsidiaries, affiliates and leadership teams.

Medium Employer Award

Applebee's Restaurant (San Antonio)
Applebee's Restaurant in San Antonio markets its restaurants as members of the community and has made it a critical part of their philosophy not only to be part of the community but to be an active part of the changing force that makes the community better. This change often takes the form of employment of people with disabilities who might require specific help to achieve a level of employment independence. The San Antonio area Applebee's (Brian Boylan, Area Manager) networks through Unicorn Centers to utilize onsite trainers (job coaches) to help transition people to the tasks required, and has incorporated Unicorn-supported employment participants in almost all aspects of operations at the restaurant. Applebee's makes every effort to match the skills and abilities of an individual with the needs and duties of a particular job. Applebee's believes that a little help goes a long way both with its employees and with its community.

Small Employer Award

Rockin' Tomato (Austin)
Rockin' Tomato is a small business which actively goes out of its way to interface with the community to provide work opportunities for people with disabilities. The business works closely with the Division for Blind Services and the Mary Lee Foundation, and has remodeled their site to make it more accessible to employees and customers. Two of the Rockin' Tomato employees are legally blind and are regarded as more than employees, more like family. The business follows a philosophy of "no boundaries, only opportunities." Rockin' Tomato worked with DARS/DBS for advanced training for employees. Meals are provided for all employees during working hours; management provides flexible work schedules and works closely with family members and Capitol Metro transit services to make sure transportation can be arranged to fit employees' work schedules. All employees are provided 24 hour access to their supervisor's cell phone for assistance at any time.

Non-Profit Employer

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dallas)
The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center is one of the leading medical education and biomedical research institutions in the country, and has a successful history of recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining people with disabilities. The Institution's Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Equal Opportunity provides training and coaching to managers and supervisors, encouraging them to keep an open mind about abilities and strengths. UT Southwestern provides Disability Etiquette training to entire teams and departments. The medical center hosts frequent "lunch and learn" sessions covering important topics like workplace inclusion and disability in the workplace, and often invites local speakers to give talks. The Institution also publishes articles about workplace inclusion and disability issues on its intranet pages. Through the Employee Advisory Council, UT Southwestern has in place a strong system for all employees to identify barriers and concerns without fear of retaliation. Employee Resource Groups are an integral component of the Institution's diversity and inclusion strategy. UT Southwestern regularly posts job openings in outlets that are specific to people with disabilities and participates in job fairs that are sponsored by organizations which advocate for the ADA. UT Southwestern serves on the Dallas Mayor's Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities, and participates in its annual EmployAbility Job Fair. UT Southwestern also uses its reputation to engage and encourage other members of the business community to join the effort.

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee Project

Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities: Business of Work Seminar (Austin)
The Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities' Annual Business of Work Seminar is a workshop designed to assist persons with disabilities in improving their job seeking skills, including successfully interviewing for a job, writing an effective resume, and dressing for success, as well as providing information on when to disclose a disability, Social Security work incentives and Medicaid Buy-in programs. The Seminar was planned with numerous community partners including the City of Austin, the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the University of Texas Athletic Dept, Mary Lee Foundation, Easter Seals, Goodwill Industries, Social Security Administration, Workforce Solutions, Capital Metro, Texas State Licensing Dept, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). This seminar prepared about 100 individuals with disabilities for participation in the Community Career Expo Job Fair, leading to a more successful job search outcome. Another significant outcome was improvement of AMCPD's collaboration efforts within its community, providing a better understanding of the common challenges and differences to meeting the rehabilitation and employment needs of Austin citizens with disabilities. The community partnership also enhanced the ability to share helpful information with each participating partner.


2013

The Governor's Trophy

Carroll Schubert, Professional Contract Services Inc (PCSI) (Austin)
The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded each year 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 the state level.

Carroll Schubert was one of the founders of PCSI in 1996, and since 2011 has served as the President and CEO of the company. Mr. Schubert is known for his passion in providing training, accommodations, and full inclusion of all people in the workplace. His enthusiasm has led to a significant growth of the company since its beginnings with its first contract to provide facilities maintenance and support services at Camp Bullis in San Antonio to a company today with national reach that employs roughly 1,300 individuals-about 80 percent of whom have disabilities.

Mr. Schubert has structured the company to provide the highest wages possible for people with disabilities, allowing them the opportunity to live independently and with dignity. He created a "promote from within" culture at PCSI which affords outstanding performers opportunities for advancement, as well as a successful career-coaching program available to star performers as they climb the ladder to success to enter lead, supervisory, and managerial positions. Mr. Schubert created partnerships with commercial subcontractors, affording those who graduate from PCSI programs the opportunity to work for a commercial company if they choose. Also, the partnership Mr. Schubert has built with the Wounded Warrior program helps attract veterans who receive preference in the hiring process.

As the president and CEO of PCSI, Mr. Carroll Schubert has played a pivotal role in cultivating a culture of opportunity, encouragement, and support leading to full and fulfilling employment of people with significant disabilities.

Entrepreneurship Award

Rebecca Page, Livin' My Dreams Art Studio and Co-op (Alpine)
Rebecca Page is the Sole Proprietor of Livin' My Dreams Art Studio and Co-op in Alpine. Ms. Page, who has Down syndrome, was able to start her business with a grant from the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services. She works everyday in her studio creating art and is responsible for the daily operation of the studio. She is also a public advocacy speaker and has travelled all over Idaho and Texas to address audiences and share her enthusiasm. She is the driving force behind the success of her business. One of her primary goals is to recruit other artists to join her co-op. She wants everyone to be able to live their dreams, and if art is their dream, she will help them to live it. People with disabilities come to the studio to develop their own artistic talent and some sell their art on consignment to Livin' My Dreams. The first thing Ms. Page did when she started her business was to make sure her building would be accessible to all people with disabilities, setting an example for the small town of Alpine. The building had to have a bathroom remodel, installation of a ramp on the front door and selection of furniture that was wheelchair friendly. Anyone can move freely in the studio and work at a table. Affiliated artists often teach art lessons in the community. Any age or ability is encouraged to come in and try to create something. Ms. Page has also been working hard to learn sign language, as well as a little Spanish, to ensure more inclusiveness in her business.


Large Employer Award

Army Air Force Exchange Service (The Exchange) (Dallas)
The Exchange has had an ongoing commitment to employment of individuals with disabilities and is poised for continued growth. The company recognizes and honors the value and talent that individuals with disabilities can bring to the workplace. ABLE, the Special Emphasis Disability Employment Program, ensures equal opportunity in the areas of recruiting, hiring, promoting and training. The ABLE Mission is to achieve a workforce in which associates with disabilities are represented at every level in the organization and to assure that the Exchange is on target with the applicable civilian work force. ABLE actively engages the workforce by sponsoring a number of initiatives:

• National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Guest speakers, cultural displays, educational and training programs.
• Outstanding Associate with a Disability: The Department of Defense (DOD) initiative in selecting the Worldwide Outstanding Associate with a Disability.
• Centralized ABLE Portal: A document library that includes current events and Exchange Post articles, disability resources, special events.
• Community outreach: Partnerships with disability organizations and participation in recruitment fairs, expos, and conferences as well as the DOD/Department of Labor Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) Internship Program for college students with disabilities.
• Reasonable Accommodation Tracking System (RTS): A system created by the Exchange to help manage and track the progress of accommodation requests.
• Local, state and national partnerships: A network to provide assistance in recruitment and inclusion of people with disabilities which includes Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), Easter Seals, Ability One, Goodwill Industries, Lighthouse for the Blind, and others.
• Community involvement: Participation as committee/advisory board members of various community organizations focused on inclusion.

Medium Employer Award

Target Medallion Center Store #T0055 (Dallas)
Target Medallion Center Store in Dallas has a strong commitment to promoting diversity. During the employee orientation the topic of diversity and inclusion is featured as core to Target's performance expectation for providing customer services. Employees are reminded that a mutual respect among the teams is required; this attitude is expressed in how they recruit their employees and in how they communicate with their guests. During training, positive communications within the community they serve is an essential job task for all employees. Customer feedback is encouraged and can become a key to earning promotions. Target acknowledges individuals and team efforts by posting scores when they reach store goals or by providing verbal and written recognition for earning positive comments from guests or others. Leadership and other training schedules are publically displayed and are offered to all employees. During the orientation the opportunity to advance is highly encouraged. Mentors are assigned to new employees. Target's team benefits include resources in a program to improve team members' lives based on the five elements of a well-being philosophy: their health, career satisfaction, social relationships, financial security and connections to the community. They also help team members create meaningful connections with others by offering discounts, social networks, fun activities.

Small Employer Award

Stencor Company, LLC (Jacksonville)
Stencor believes in the value of the individual and that each individual has something to contribute when given the opportunity. The company sees meaningful employment in an integrated work setting not only as a benefit to the employees with disabilities, but to the organization as a whole. Stencor works in partnership with Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and Client Services of East Texas (CSET) to identify consumers who have the potential to learn the necessary skills to be successful in assembly work. Stencor provides the space, parts and tools necessary for CSET to bring in potential employees to complete assessments in order to identify those who want to be a part of the organization. Stencor makes every effort to integrate employees with disabilities into all levels and services in the work place. Its focus is to see that in the workplace there are no differences, all are one and the same.

Non-Profit Employer Award

RISE Center (Beaumont)
RISE Center has a long history of successfully hiring, training and retaining qualified individuals with disabilities to advance in employment at the Center and in the community. Founded in 1996, RISE Center promotes the full inclusion, equal opportunity, and participation of persons with disabilities in every aspect of life; currently, approximately 85 percent of RISE staff are individuals with disabilities. As a consumer-driven organization, RISE Center services are developed, directed, delivered and governed primarily by individuals with disabilities. The goals of the Center are to empower individuals with disabilities to become viable parts of their community, and to make the community and society aware and sensitive of individuals with disabilities. RISE Center follows the independent living philosophy that is founded on principles of self determination, self help, and consumer choice. RISE Center established a Job Readiness Program supported by funds received from an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant. The majority of current RISE Center staff participated in the program and serve in various levels of employment. With a focus on practical and innovative accommodations, the Center has an embosser and software to tranlate the written word into Braille; signage throughout the Center in Large Print and Braille; an automatic door opener to the Center's suite; work areas throughout the Center with adjustable height tables; larger-than-average computer monitors; and five screen readers.

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee Project

Panhandle Coalition for Transition Services: LITE project (Amarillo)

The Panhandle Coalition for Transition Services is made up of various organizations and agencies interested in fostering a smooth transition from high school to higher education, into the community, or into the workplace for persons with disabilities. Current PCTS members include The Panhandle Independent Living Center, Eddie Bauer Store, West Texas A&M University, Parmer County SSA, Uniting Parents, 2Care for Kids, Coalition for Health Services, Department of State Health Services, Division for Rehabilitation Services, Division for Blind Services, Workforce Solutions Panhandle, Amarillo ISD and Canyon ISD representatives, Region 16 ESC, and Amarillo College. The Living Independently Through Education (LITE) Scholarship program event was developed out of this partnership. The LITE event is held annually; the 2013 LITE event raised over $50,000 for scholarships to be awarded to students with disabilities to attend Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University. The event consists of fund raising, selling raffle tickets, a silent auction, vendor booths, and guest speakers. The Mayor of the City of Amarillo presents a proclamation declaring LITE Day. The LITE event offers an opportunity for the community to celebrate and promote the abilities of persons with disabilities and to acknowledge accomplishments and look to the future. The LITE program has enhanced the lives of Texans with disabilities by allowing many students to attend college who may not otherwise have been able to attend, and to enhance their employment opportunities.


2012

The Governor's Trophy

Stephen Booher, City of Arlington
The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded each year 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 the state level.

Stephen Booher, Organizational Development Specialist in the Workforce Services Department of the City of Arlington, is involved daily in organizations which are at the forefront of the fight for better and continued advancement in all areas of human rights. Since 2008, Mr. Booher has been a board member of Helping Restore Abilities. He is a member of the Arlington Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilites and, as a member, interacts with the Cowboy Stadium design team on various issues. He has served on the Dallas Mayor's Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities and on the Texas Instruments Diversity Network; he coached and financially supported a team to raise money for Special Olympics in the Plane Pull at DFW; as a city employee for the City of Irving, Mr. Booher worked on the Advisory Committee on Disabilities and taught classes on communicating effectively with people with disabilities; he co-chaired the Disability Expo at the Heritage Center; he worked on the plans for an accessible playground and researched other accessible playgrounds in the area. While employed with the cities of Irving and Arlington, Mr. Booher has had direct impact on the creation of services as well as the construction of two barrier-free playgrounds and was able to offer input into the needs of customers with disabilities at the new Cowboy Stadium. Mr. Booher continues to network with key people in the field of disabilities and to stay involved in activities, training, and events.

Entrepreneurship Award

Stacy Zoern, Community Cars, Inc (Pflugerville)
Stacy Zoern, who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses an electric wheelchair, is the CEO of Community Cars, Inc, a corporation that manufactures low-speed electric vehicles that are purpose-built for people in wheelchairs. After finding the Kenguru vehicle online and wanting to purchase one, she learned that the company was not producing vehicles for lack of funding. She has since done everything in her power to bring the Kenguru to the market. She raised $2.5 million, obtained VISAs for the Hungarian developers to move to the United States, purchased inventory, rented a space for the factory, hired twelve engineers, welders, and other automotive assemblers, and started production. In addition to the direct job creation, her company has spent over $200,000 with other local businesses in less than one year. In the meantime, she quit her job practicing law to run Community Cars and has put 100% of her personal finances on the line for the success of Community Cars. The entire mission of Community Cars is to bring mobility, independence, and freedom to people with disabilities. The Kenguru is driven from the wheelchair, accessed by a rear ramp and hatchback. With a top speed of 25 mph, its purpose is to make the community accessible by providing people in wheelchairs with a "moped" that gets them to work, school, the store, the movies, their friends' homes, etc, at a cost well below that of a fully modified van.

Large Employer Award

Target - Austin Southwest Greatland store (Austin)
Target's philosophy regarding employing and advancing Texans with disabilities is simple: Every person deserves a chance to make a difference in another's life. When Target employs a person for its team, the company is looking for people who want to make the community a better place to live and will make sure the customer's shopping experience is pleasant and productive. Even though an individual might have a certain disability, they can have a far greater ability to promote the company's mission: Being Fast, Fun & Friendly. Whether an accommodation involves a team member's work schedule, mode of personal transportation, use of adaptive equipment, modifying a specific task or embracing the aid of a Job Coach, each person is treated as a valued employee and the managers focus on the abilities of each of their Team Members. Target provides each employee with specific training in areas that best suit their ability to be productive employees. Target has also embraced family members of employees with disabilities by allowing them to attend the monthly Employee Luncheons. All department supervisors go out of their way to make accommodations available whenever possible, such as revising job descriptions to allow a person to maintain employment.

Medium Employer Award

Image Microsystems (Austin)
Image Microsystems' commitment to community is a key driver of the company's success. As part of their community commitment, Image Microsystems sponsors Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) students through their Career Technology Education Program. By employing people who are deaf or hard of hearing and other students with disabilities, they provide paid internships-giving each student exposure to the world of technology and environmental responsibility. After graduation, these students are qualified to apply for full time employment. As much as 40% of Image Microsystems' workforce includes employees who have disabilities. Image Microsystems provides an onsite ASL interpreter to assist with employment transition, training, and ongoing support. To further promote communication, the company provides several phones capable of Video Relay Services, as well as bilingual (hearing and ASL) services to ensure communication with all employees. All of the company's facilities and services are designed with employees with disabilities in mind. Image Microsystems provides community outreach to promote the hiring of people with disabilities through speaking engagements at various organization meetings and events.

Small Employer Award

Big Lots (Denton)
At Big Lots in Denton, managers openly support the needs, diversity and opportunities for all employees and applicants, partly by being responsive to requests for work experiences from Denton ISD High School Special Education Department and from the University of North Texas summer youth program. Big Lots encourages new employees who pass six months of probation employment to consider applying for new openings in customer services or manager positions. All employees learn procedures for reporting any concerns or safety issues and can access anonymous reporting. New employees must pass a series of training prevention topics which focus on safety, workplace harassment and other communications. These are provided in verbal, visual, written, computer access and in one-to-one question and answer sessions. New employees are offered the option to re-take tests that they did not pass with no negative notation in their file for re-testing and are allowed extended time to learn their job or new tasks with dignity and are respected for their individual learning style. Employees are matched with a mentor with whom they comfortably communicate. New employees are encouraged to advocate for themselves through the mentor to feel more self-empowered. Feedback is often requested. Managers say that customers appreciate the way employees work as a team and all they do to enhance employment prospects in the community.

Non-Profit Employer

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston)
MD Anderson's goals include becoming the "Employer of Choice" for people with disabilities. Their commitment to equal opportunity hiring practices is demonstrated in their EEO policy statement. MD Anderson worked closely with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation with its Master Plan, and went above and beyond in the upgrades and renovations of restrooms and other accessible elements (drinking fountains, telephones and other items such as interior ramps and automatic doors at double leaf doors, etc.). A new initiative by the organization development team is to expand the organization's mentoring initiative. The range of positions at MD Anderson held by employees with disabilities range from faculty members to clerical workers, including positions in-between, and both direct and indirect patient care employees. MD Anderson encourages employees to disclose both visible and invisible disabilities. MD Anderson's PeopleFirst Employee Resource Group (ERG), formed to promote a more inclusive work environment for individuals who live with disabilities and to educate all employees about individuals with disabilities in the workplace through education and advocacy, has a memberhip of 150 employees. Human Resources is collaborating with the ERG to assist with advocating for employees with disabilities to self-identify without fear.

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee

Employment Alliance for People with Disabilities (Corpus Christi)
Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend in partnership with Department of Assistive andRehabilitative Services co-founded the Employment Alliance for People with Disabilities
(EAPD) in May 2011. The leadership of the EAPD includes an incredibly diverse, collaborative committee focused on increasing employment opportunities for people with disabilities and educating employers on how to recruit, hire and retain employees with disabilities. Breaking through barriers, the EAPD hosted a Job Fair targeted to people with disabilities and open to the public. The first of its kind in the Coastal Bend, the EAPD Job Fair was held at Del Mar College Center for Economic Development in October 2011, in celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Leveraging the strengths and resources of the community it serves, the EAPD Job Fair was produced entirely through in-kind donations, which included public transportation shuttles and accommodations such as large print/Braille, sighted guides and certified ASL Interpreters to guarantee that all attendees had equal access. The EAPD Job Fair helped to create a culture of access and inclusion in the workplace with regional employers by inviting them to join the EAPD, and encouraging them to request specific training and resource information and additional resources relative to the economic benefits of welcoming individuals with disabilities as both employees and customers. The EAPD Job Fair received local media attention that helped to influence and change cultural attitudes and to promote effective workplace practices that ensure that today's workforce is inclusive of all people. The EAPD Job Fair was an outstanding success with over 350 attendees from throughout the Coastal Bend region, most of whom were job seekers with disabilities, and 40 private-sector employers present. The EAPD is set to host the 2nd Annual EAPD Job Fair in October 2012.


2011

The Governor's Trophy

Scott Tisdall, Walgreen's (Waxahachie)
The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded each year 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 the state level.

Scott Tisdall, manager of the Walgreen's Distribution Center in Waxahachie, is often contacted by major corporate leaders from all over the U.S. for his advice on hiring and retaining employees with disabilities. He is known for broadening the scope of the ADA accommodations requirements to the highest level, integrating the employees with disabilities comfortably into the culture and environment of the workplace. To bring more hands-on learning to leaders in the business community, Mr. Tisdall encourages educational tours for business managers, community leaders and local school districts. Sign language interpreters, walkie-talkies with texting capabilities, Ubi-Duos, and other technology are common in the Distribution Center, as are such amenities as a mini-workout center, field trips, and other community-building projects and ideas. Mr. Tisdall is also known within the community for his personal efforts and contributions to programs such as day camps, golf tournaments, accessible transportation, etc.

Large Employer Award

PCSI Inc (Killeen)
Professional Contract Services Inc (PSCI) was founded on the simple premise that people with disabilities, given opportunity and support, will not only be successful, but will excel in the workplace. At PCSI, the mindset is that at the local level, supervisors must be able to effectively communicate with and accommodate employees with disabilities; therefore, supervisors undergo extensive training which gives them the necessary tools to ensure their employees are able to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. PCSI is made up of employees with disabilities from the most entry-level position through the ranks all the way up to administration status, such as those working at corporate headquarters and in on-site supervisory roles. PCSI provides accommodations that range from transportation needs, to cell phones with texting capabilities for communication between employees and supervisors, to necessary time off for specific health needs. "One way in which we create a win-win situation is by going out of our way to make accommodations for our staff," says Vanessa Ferguson of PCSI. "Through our combined efforts, many of our employees have excelled and been recognized locally and nationally."

Medium Employer Award

Johnson Controls (San Antonio)
Johnson Controls San Antonio is a heavy metal fabrication shop which has declared a serious commitment to diversity and inclusion in their practices involving hiring, training, and maintaining employees. The San Antonio office employs a large number of employees who are deaf or hard of hearing, and members of the staff in the Human Resources Department have learned American Sign Language to facilitate communications. The presence of employees with hearing impairments has sparked communication awareness among all the employees at Johnson Controls and has encouraged many of them to voluntarily learn ASL in classes offered onsite. John Rivas of Johnson Controls says, "Our deaf and hard of hearing employees have been dependable and excellent performers. They have adapted well to the requirements and demands of their jobs. The reciprocal benefits have been tremendous and enormously rewarding."

Small Employer Award

Taco Cabana #278 (Austin)
Taco Cabana #278 is dedicated to hiring individuals according to their abilities and strengths. Currently, sign language is used with two employees who are deaf, and positive verbal prompts are used during work assignments for another employee with autism. The manager and staff are all supportive of the role of people with disabilities within their organization, and the three employees with disabilities have shown significant progress in their working skills and social/vocational interactions. The camaraderie and genuine respect among all of the staff from Taco Cabana #278 is an essential part of the work environment.

Non-Profit Employer Award

Laredo Independent School District (Laredo)
Laredo ISD has employees with disabilities in various levels of the school district, including those who work as educators, bookkeepers, office personnel, custodial staff and administrators. All employees have opportunities for advancement to any position in which they are able to perform the essential functions of the job. "Our philosophy and policies extend from recruiting the most highly qualified faculty and staff to addressing the needs of our employees in an effort to retain a highly qualified workforce," says Edna Garza of Laredo ISD. "Our aim is to ensure equal opportunity to all of our employees and to provide the necessary accommodations to ensure this."

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee

Texas RehabACTion Network (TRAN) of the Coastal Bend (Corpus Christi)
In the three years since its formation, TRAN has used outreach and innovative techniques to inform the population of the Coastal Bend of the existence of a valuable underutilized resource available to the labor market: qualified, well-trained individuals with disabilities, eager to prove their capability to perform well on the job when offered the opportunity. TRAN's primary efforts were the Annual Coastal Bend Walk ‘n Roll Celebration, which began in 2009 by bringing together local branches of organizations such as the Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, South Texas Lighthouse for the Blind, Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend, and others; and its leading role in organizing the Employers' Symposium: "Opening Doors, Creating Opportunities" with special guest speaker Assistant Secretary of Labor Kathleen Martinez. Both programs continued, with increased visibility and participation, in 2010, and will be offered again in 2011.


2010

Large Employer Award

Bank of America (Dallas)
Bank of America continually strives to enhance the experience of their associates with disabilities and to actively attract, hire and retain people with disabilities at all levels of the company. This commitment is evidenced programs and services such as their Accommodation Services, Disability Accommodation Fund, Alternative Format Communication Program, and Outreach and Recruiting Activities. From the nation's largest Talking ATM network to unprecedented associate accommodation programs, Bank of America is committed to higher standards in serving people with disabilities. For providing online accessibility, Bank of America makes the Web more accessible to people who use adaptive technologies based on priorities established by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and shares comprehensive accessibility information with all visitors to the Bank of America Accessible Banking Web site, as well as partnering with a variety of Web accessibility specialists and conducting usability tests to help ensure a friendly and usable Web experience.

Medium Employer Award

Holiday Inn Midtown Austin (Austin)
The Holiday Inn Austin Midtown sets the bar for other hotels. Working in close partnership with the AISD Clifton Center, the Holiday Inn Austin Midtown Management Team put together a most impressive hospitality internship program whereby students with a disability graduate, having learned a variety of marketable hotel industry skills developed "by the industry and for the industry". During the year-long internship program, students are paired in each work station with a Workplace Mentor. Mentors are experienced hotel staff who received specialized training by AISD to enhance their ability to work with students who have a disability. Holiday Inn Austin Midtown promotes the use of Job Coaches to assist an applicant wherever needed including completing the job application, assisting during the interview and recommending work accommodations once hired.

Small Employer Award

Gold Star Medical Business Services (San Angelo)
Early in 2010, Elizabeth Maciejewski, owner of Gold Star, was introduced to representatives of the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and Concho Valley Supported Employment Services. These organizations provided Gold Star with excellent candidates for billing rep positions within the company. Gold Star began a systematic marketing campaign to recruit new clients. From January 2010 to the present, clientele has almost doubled. At this time, 60% of the Gold Star reps are individuals with physical disabilities. Gold Star Medical's employment model allows individuals to work from home, and affords them flexible hours in which to work. Gold Star is currently developing an online, web-based job training program that will allow prospective employees and reps the ability to complete over 80-90% of their training in a home-based, self-paced environment. The projected completion date of this training program is September 2010. This will open up the prospective employee pool to the entire State of Texas, and eventually the 50 contiguous states.

Non-Profit Employer Award

PRIDE Industries (El Paso)
With more than 40 years of expertise and experience in preparing people with disabilities for employment, PRIDE provides vocational training, counseling and support to individuals with disabilities and other employment barriers, helping people develop the technical and work skills they need to obtain and sustain employment, becoming contributing members of their communities. PRIDE recruits, employs and advances careers for people with disabilities in Texas through its Directorate of Public Works contract performing base-wide facilities services at Fort Bliss and by partnering with state agencies and other organizations to place individuals with disabilities in community employment. Simple but meaningful accommodations made at the El Paso office include inventory coding in Braille, TDD devices or use of interpreters for interviewing potential employees, and special support for veterans with disabilities.

The Governor's Trophy

Ron Lucey, DARS (Austin)
The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded each year 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 the state level.

As chair of the Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities, Ron Lucey has represented people with disabilities in Central Texas on all relevant issues. He is a tireless advocate in meeting and/or talking with citizens, policy makers, elected officials, and agency staff representative on the various topics and issues impacting the lives of persons with disabilities. Ron has provided testimony to countless Texas Legislative Subcommittees on various disability issues. Other efforts include serving as a City Commissioner and Chair of the Austin Mayor's Committee for People with Disabilities, and providing accessibility policy recommendations to the City Council and Austin's past four Mayors. He has held several positions at DARS and its legacy agency, the Texas Commission for the Blind, which included the establishment of an automated statewide information and referral system and the creation of a blindness prevention program. He also is active in many community programs for people with disabilities, including Knowbility, Access U, and others, and has provided expertise and advice to organizations throughout the city and state.

Entrepreneurship Award

Jane Thomas, Apple Specialty Advertising (San Antonio)
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.

Jane Thomas has been a T10 Paraplegic for over twenty five years. She suffered a spinal cord injury in her teens. Today she is owner of Apple Specialty Advertising (ASA), a full-service marketing and promotional products company. Jane has implemented the company's strategic goals and objectives in addition to running the day to day operations as they relate to client development, financial oversight and marketing strategies. Jane is always looking for ways to improve marketing strategies, increasing revenues and reducing business expenses. She employs a user-friendly industry website which enabled her clients to view over 750,000 available products. She uses an internet based industry system to process purchase orders and invoice clients on line. In 2009, Jane initialed the use of Constant Contact, an internet based program that allows her to generate direct marketing pieces for our clients. Jane is the top selling sales representative for the company, and has been since its inception. Jane is also the company graphic designer, who creates camera-ready layouts for all orders requiring artwork (which is nearly every order). Besides her work at Apple Specialty, Jane is actively involved in many community organizations, including the South San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, San Antonio Independent Living Services, the City of San Antonio Disability Access Advisory Committee, and the Texas Disabled Veteran's Association (Honorary Member).


Employment Award Winners 1979-2010

Past Winners (Word)

Past Winners (PDF)

Download the latest version of Adobe Reader.