Lex Frieden Employment Awards - Past Winners
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 Prairie
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Martha Arbuckle Award
El Paso Community Foundation (Every Little Blessing Preschool)
The Martha Arbuckle Award recognizes the most innovative local committee project. The 2019 winner is the El Paso Community Foundation, which created the city’s first preschool for children with special needs.
The McKee family is the driving force behind this project. When Eloise was born with Down syndrome, her parents quickly realized there were no options for her in their community. Dr. Kerry McKee and her parents—Dr. John and Lynn McKee—created a preschool for children with special needs out of nothing. Every Little Blessing Preschool provides early childhood development programs in an inclusive environment.
Recognizing the importance of accessible support and education, they knew it was vital the school have a “pay as you can” policy. In order to raise the funds to make this a reality, they did as any good Texan would—they held a BBQ. The annual “Whole Hog BBQ” has raised more than $415,000 in the past three years. The work of the El Paso Community Foundation and the success of the Every Little Blessing Preschool stands out as a model for communities throughout the state.
Stor and Lok, GRO Investments (Abilene)
GRO Investments Stor & Lok is a small family-owned business committed to hiring individuals with disabilities. They have four employees, all of whom have disabilities working in all levels of the company. Two of their employees are veterans with a disability. Anytime they have a vacancy they reach out to Texas Veterans Commission staff for assistance with recruitment. Stor & Lok fully integrates employees with disabilities in their workplace through the accommodation of flexible scheduling as well as providing any needed assistive or adaptive devices. The company recently purchased a motorized cart for approximately $2000, to assist the staff with disabilities in transiting the business property more efficiently. Their company value is “everyone deserves an opportunity for employment.”
Chick-fil-A (The Coop, East Main St., Allen; Niel Brown- Operator)
Niel Brown and Laura Castillo operate two multi-million dollar Chick-fil-a stores in North Texas. Together they have created “Launching Leaders,” a vision and values course that focuses on employee growth. Person-centered planning is the watchword for Laura and Niel—if someone seeks a position with their company and has a strong desire to work, they will surround them with the supports they need to be successful.
Niel and Laura exemplify the ideals of servant leadership; they work with their employees to determine their goals, and then develop a plan to help them achieve those goals. Beyond this, they have provided $150,000 in college scholarships, as well as created paid internship programs with area colleges.
Everyone is capable of success with the right supports. Many of the accommodations Laura and Niel have developed—such as illustrated rather than written instructions—are now used by all employees. As their motto states, “when something helps one, it helps all.”
Pride Industries (Fort Worth)
PRIDE Industries creates paths to employment for people with disabilities through person-centered job coaching, training, and placement. Their cultivation of relationships with the Texas Workforce Commission, Texas Veterans Commission, and military support groups enables them to expand career opportunities for people with disabilities. Through contracts with the Department of Defense at Fort Bliss, they employ more than 300 people with disabilities across the state-- including service-disabled veterans.
PRIDE is a leader in promoting accessibility and inclusivity. They provide specialized training and instruction by job coaches fluent in American Sign Language; offer flexible work schedules, extra breaks, and job carving; and provide assistive technology to employees.
PRIDE exists to support people during every step of their job search. With their support, workers with disabilities are empowered to lead productive independent lives. Employees have gone on to hold a variety of positions in many skilled trades, and use the skills honed with PRIDE to advance in their careers.
H-E-B (San Antonio)
H-E-B is a grocery store chain that believes in investing in people—all people. They understand the importance of supporting employees both at work and at home. Tina James, H-E-B’s Chief People Officer, and her team are exemplars of this; she brings in experts to speak to employees who have a family member diagnosed with autism, going above and beyond the call of duty.
Tina had a vision—to support all employees with disabilities—and built a program to actualize that goal. Bridges is run by Jenn Byron Ross and a team of people whose goal is to better understand, support, and recruit new employees to H-E-B. It takes a holistic approach, identifying the accommodations the employee needs to be successful while also empowering their co-workers and managers to support them through training. It is clear Tina James and the team at H-E-B believe in all their employees, and will help the company continue to be leaders in hiring and empowering employees with disabilities.
Gordon Hartman (Morgan’s Wonderland)
Gordon Hartman is the visionary creator of Morgan’s Wonderland theme park and its sister splash park, Morgan’s Inspiration Island. The unique, ultra-accessible parks were designed with the disability community in mind, and built for everyone’s enjoyment. Mr. Hartman’s commitment to the special needs community has not wavered since he first established The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation nearly 15 years ago. He and his wife Maggie have committed millions of dollars to their accessible parks, and have successfully urged other individuals, corporations, foundations, and organizations to invest in inclusion.
Gordon’s daughter Morgan is his lodestar. She was born with physical and cognitive challenges, and the Hartman’s are driven by a desire to create an inclusive, accessible world for Morgan and her peers. Inclusion is Gordon’s guide, and his diligent work to bring together those with and without disabilities to foster greater understanding is an example to us all.
The Governor’s Trophy
Larry P. Johnson, retired (San Antonio)
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.
Larry Johnson, author, disability advocate, and motivational speaker has been advancing the empowerment and employment of people with and without disabilities by his example and leadership for more than 60 years. Mr. Johnson has been a passionate advocate for people with disabilities for decades, never letting blindness slow him down or determine his path. He has worked with the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature where his professionalism and his vast knowledge on the issues that people with disabilities face in the workplace became obvious. His collaborative, congenial demeanor and the way he moves others to action with his leadership are admirable to all who know him.
Most recently, Larry advocated for the passage of House Bill 62 and Senate Bill 1693 during the 85th Legislative Session. He worked closely with legislative staff as the bills made their way through the legislative process, and his work was helpful in the ultimate passage of both bills. His work didn’t end there, however. S.B. 1693 established a task force under the Aging Texas Well Advisory Council, and he will present at the initial meeting of the task force on coordinated services for seniors losing their vision.
James Parker, Shredding on the Go (Houston)
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.
In 2010, James Parker gathered with a group of his closest friends and family to plan his life after high school. After discussing his interests, abilities and passions, they ultimately launched Shredding on the Go. James is the face of the business and works five days a week shredding documents for residential and business companies and attending business meetings and marketing events.
Large Employer Award
Maximus (San Antonio)
The Large Employer Award (more than 500 employees) recognizes 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.
MAXIMUS transforms lives and strengthens communities through their passion for innovation in serving health and human services programs. In partnering with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services, MAXIMUS participates in many job fairs with the goal of hiring individuals with disabilities. They offer a full range of workplace capabilities including skills assessment and training, career planning, and job placement to Disabled Veterans and individuals with disabilities.
Medium Employer Award
FCI Bureau of Prisons (Bastrop)
The Medium Employer Award (26 to 500 employees) recognizes 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.
Approximately 27% of the FCI Bastrop’s employees have disabilities, including 75 Disabled Veterans who have been integrated into a variety of positions in fields such as Correctional Services, Dental, Facilities and Food Service, Health Services and Support/Administration. Work environments are changed to enable an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.
Small Employer Award
Crepe Crazy (Austin)
The Small employer Award (25 or fewer employees) recognizes employers in Texas who have fostered a diverse and accessible workplace and who have developed innovative ways to integrate people with disabilities into the workforce.
Crepe Crazy is a successful café owned and run entirely by employees who are Deaf. The owners strive to make sure everyone feels good at the workplace and makes sure employees’ voices are being heard. Because most customers are not deaf, the communication barrier between employees and customers is minimized through accommodations such as a Boogie Board to capture information, sign language, or text messaging.
Food Bank of Corpus Christi
The Non-Profit Award recognizes 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.
Since 1982, the Food Bank of Corpus Christi has been fighting hunger in the 11-county Coastal Bend area by providing food and personal care products to various charity and service agencies. The Food Bank currently feeds 7,800 people, conducts 27 mobile pantry drops each week, and operates seven programs. The organization firmly believes every employee is a valuable resource and everyone is capable of learning and being productive.
Martha Arbuckle Award for for Exemplary Community Project
Houston Commission on Disabilities
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.
The Houston Commission on Disabilities serves as a strong advocacy voice and recently played a vital role in Houston’s emergency response and recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
Many hours were spent problem solving and creating on-demand systems to respond in real time as the emergency unfolded. As the region moves into recovery, the Commission continues to advocate for accessible housing, improved transitional sheltering, and other services and supports that assist people with disabilities to return to their community.
The Governor’s Trophy
David Myers, Director (Retired), Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and Texas Commission for the Deaf (Austin)
David Myers served for 18 years as director for the Office for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and as executive director for the Texas Commission for the Deaf. He continues to advocate for communication access and the rights of people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Consumers, interpreters, state agencies and elected officials were most fortunate to benefit from Mr. Myers’ leadership before his retirement in 2011. He worked tirelessly to eliminate societal and communication barriers in order to improve equal access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Mr. Myers’ most noteworthy accomplishments include:
- Creating a Hard of Hearing program to focus on the unique needs of hard of hearing and late-deafened population;
- Establishing a Trilingual Task Force to assess communication and service needs of Texas’ Hispanic deaf and hard of hearing population; and
- Developing a new Board of Evaluation for Interpreter Testing. Sign language interpreters and organizations across the country recognize these tests as being of a high quality and respectable standard.
Jason Shaw, Blue Paw Energy Service (Austin)
Blue Paw Energy Service was established in 2012 by Jason Shaw, the nation's first deaf master electrician and only hearing-impaired professional certified by North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. The Austin-based company provides energy efficiency services, including complete electrical services and solar PV design and installation. With over 20 years of experience in the electrical trade, Mr. Shaw offers recommendations about energy-efficient renovations and advice about city rebate programs and tax exemptions. He helped revive the Renewable Energy Student Association at Austin Community College and, as president, utilized networking opportunities to grow his business.
Large Employer Award
CyraCom’s Houston office provides language translation and interpreting services for healthcare organizations that need rapid access. The company encourages an inclusive environment that embraces new ideas and respect for individuals while fostering opportunities for success. CyraCom partners with Texas Workforce Solutions Vocational Rehabilitation Services to hire qualified individuals and integrate employees with disabilities through accessible computer software. Whether in-person or via phone, video, mobile app or written text, CyraCom bridges communication gaps.
Medium Employer Award
Starbucks (Houston Heights)
The Starbucks location in the Houston Heights area is known as an inclusive business that attracts individuals with disabilities. The welcoming work atmosphere encourages partners to engage with one another. Starbucks employees demonstrate their commitment to interviewing and hiring people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as veterans who have disabilities. Accommodations such as interpreters, iPads for video relay and digital dry erase boards are provided for customers to place orders. Store manager Paul Meyer recognized and worked to address one partner’s challenges — that partner is now assistant store manager.
Small Employer Award
Howdy Homemade (Dallas)
Howdy Homemade isn’t just an ice cream parlor — it’s a revolution. Owner Tom Landis opened the shop in Dallas in 2015 because he wanted to create jobs for people who have disabilities. Eighty percent of Howdy Homemade employees have Down syndrome or autism and are provided training and accommodations in order to become successful. Employees are renowned for their friendliness and are encouraged to offer guests heaping samples of their favorite flavors. Recently, one employee was even given a key to the store and has ambitions of opening his own franchise someday.
Texas Rush Soccer Club (Houston)
The only soccer club in the Houston area with a complete development model for boys and girls, ages 4 and up, Texas Rush was designed to give kids with physical or mental disabilities the opportunity to learn to play soccer. The game is modified to fit the needs of each player and to ensure that everyone plays at his or her level. The Woodlands program has approximately 30 players along with 30 buddies who offer assistance. All players experience game action, which helps inspire confidence while familiarizing them with the sport. Coach Keith “Muck” Johnson has cerebral palsy and started his soccer career while playing in a similar program.
Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee Project
Camp SURGE (Grayson County College)
Camp SURGE is a partnership between the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and Grayson County College’s Center for Workplace Learning. This two-week camp is an introduction to the process of career decision-making for young adults ready to transition into the workplace or begin college. Students focus on achieving academic success and learn valuable people skills, including communication, problem solving, customer service and leadership. At the end of camp, students said they found a comfortable social environment they had never experienced before. Camp participants discovered they were capable of developing interviewing skills, making eye contact and addressing a small audience.
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.
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 recruiting 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 accommodations 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.
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.”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 publicly 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.