2012 Lex Frieden Employment Award Winners

The Texas Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities Announces
the 2012 Lex Frieden Employment Award Winners

Since 1979, the Governor’s Committee has worked to highlight the
efforts of employers to hire and retain employees with disabilities,
and to recognize best practices that positively affect employees with
disabilities within the workplace. An employer whose philosophy is to
support employment opportunities for all Texans, including people with
disabilities, benefits the local community as well as the state. The
attitude of working as a partner in the community is considered a
strength to be highlighted and encouraged by the presentation of our
annual Employment Awards. The active and enthusiastic promotion of
business opportunities for people with disabilities is also an
important element in the consideration of the award. Each year during
the month of October (National Disability Employment Awareness Month),
a local committee in Texas hosts the Annual Employment Awards Ceremony,
and the winners in each of several categories are introduced to an
appreciative audience. Award categories include large, medium, and
small employers, as well as non-profit employers, the Entrepreneurship
Award, Martha Arbuckle Award and the Governor’s Trophy

Award Ceremony: This year we are pleased to collaborate with the
Houston Mayor’s Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities on
the annual awards. Join us in recognizing outstanding employers who
have focused on hiring and inclusion practices in the workplace of
persons with disabilities.

Details: Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 at 11:30am at the Hilton Houston
Hobby Airport Hotel, 8181 Airport Blvd, Houston, Texas 77061. Luncheon
tickets are $30.00. Seating is limited. RSVP by October 17, 2012.
CONTACT Monica Falcon at 713-928-7730 or email her at
[email protected] for accommodations and alternative
format and to RSVP by October 17, 2012.

The Lex Frieden Employment Award Winners are:

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 and Rehabilitative 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.

About the Lex Frieden Employment Awards:

The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities announced in 2011
that the annual employment awards have been renamed after disability
rights champion and independent living movement leader Lex Frieden, one
of the architects of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990. Frieden is the UT Chancellor’s Health Fellow on Disability, a
professor of biomedical informatics and rehabilitation at UT Health and
director of the Independent Living Research Utilization Program (ILRU)
at TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital. He was appointed by
President George W. Bush as chair of the National Council on Disability
in 2002, and also served an eight-year term on the United Nations Panel
of Experts on the Standard Rules for Disability. Frieden is author or
co-author of more than 60 articles on independent living, disability
rights and rehabilitation. He has received two Presidential Citations
for his work in the field of disability, and was awarded an honorary
doctorate in law by the National University of Ireland in 2004. For
more information about the awards and to see past recipients, go to

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