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.
2021 Lex Frieden Award Winners
Governor's Trophy Award
Kristi J. Avalos
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 Kristi Avalos, CEO of Accessology Too, LLC, as this year's Governor’s Trophy winner. Kristi is a longtime advocate for people with disabilities beginning her journey in 1977 when she worked at a convalescent home for children. She was later hired by American Airlines to implement the Air Carrier Access Act and in 1990 created Accessology to provide training and consulting services on ADA compliance to architects, contractors, designers, building owners, universities, municipalities, commercial lenders, attorneys, and others throughout the nation. For more than 30 years Kristi has provided onsite direction and expert technical support to bring state and local governments into compliance through their legally mandated Transition Plans. Her entire adult life is dedicated to removing barriers for people with disabilities and bridging the gap between what people with disabilities need/want and what business or agencies can provide. As a consultant for many large projects around the country, Kristi insists upon developing advisory boards made up of individuals with disabilities, giving each group a voice within their own community. Accessology Too is based in McKinney, Texas.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Texas Chapter
This award honors the most innovative local disability committee project and is presented in memory of Austin's long-time disability advocate, Martha Arbuckle. In 2017, the Texas Chapter PVA recognized the shortage of accessible parking places for people with disabilities due to the overuse of eligible Disabled Veteran (DV) license plate users, by people without a mobility disability. Working with the Texas Legislature over the past four years, following many sessions providing testimony and educating the legislature on this issue, SB 792 87th Legislature was signed into law by Governor Abbott, becoming effective January 1, 2022. This law will ensure better availability of accessible parking spaces across the state for anyone with a mobility disability and license plate that includes the international symbol of access or valid parking placard. PVA Texas is based in Crosby, Texas.
The Entrepreneurship Award
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 Entrepreneur award is awarded posthumously to Gregory Stavinoha. Mr. Stavinoha was legally blind and successfully operated a business in the Mickey Leland Federal Building in Houston Texas through the Federal Randolph Sheppard program from 1996 until his recent passing in September 2021. The business included food service, vending and the production and sale of United States Passport photographs. Mr. Stavinoha was an outstanding business mentor to other aspiring entrepreneurs with disabilities wishing to achieve his same level of success.
Lockheed Martin (Fort Worth)
Lockheed Martin has been recognized as one of the best places to work for disability inclusion for the sixth straight year. This Fort Worth-based corporation received the top score on Disability:IN’s 2020 Disability Equality Index®, which recognizes employers for creating equitable and accessible opportunities for all potential employees. Their Able & Allies Business Resource Group continuously works to increase access and opportunity for employees with disabilities, developing strong partnerships with corporate allies who are committed to advancing disability inclusion and equality across their businesses in the United States and around the world. A commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace helps drive innovation at Lockheed Martin by ensuring a range of perspectives are represented.
Kumori Sushi & Teppanyaki (San Antonio and Rio Grande Valley)
GCPD recognizes Kumori as the 2021 Medium Employer of the Year (26 to 500 employees) for fostering a diverse and accessible workplace. Kumori is the first Modern Japanese restaurant and has 11 locations in South Texas. Kumori believes everyone deserves to excel in competitive employment and treats employees as if they were family with a strong commitment to see each employee succeeds. Currently over 10% of employees at Kumori have a disability and are employed in a range of positions from cooks to HR personnel and management.
ServiceMaster Commercial Cleaning by Legacy (El Paso)
GCPD recognizes Heidi Avedician, owner of ServiceMaster by Legacy as the 2021 Small Employer of the Year (25 employees or less). This cleaning and disinfecting company boasts that 25% of staff are people with disabilities. The positions held by employees with disabilities are mainly, but not exclusively, operational support roles - the ones that the company could not succeed without.
Endeavors Unlimited (San Antonio)
GCPD recognizes Endeavors Unlimited. They believe that everyone deserves a chance to obtain and maintain gainful employment in a position that fits their skills and abilities. Approximately 75% of the employees have disabilities and Endeavors encourages all employees to grow and develop. They promote advancement by providing accessible training and learning opportunities at all levels. They have been recognized by the National Organization on Disability as a Leading Disability Employer in 2020 and 2021 due to the organization’s focus and policies towards individuals with disabilities.
How to Submit a Nomination
Nominations are now 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 mailed to:
Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
P.O. Box 12428
Austin TX 78711
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: