Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao presented 10 New Freedom Initiative Awards on October 16, 2003. Five businesses, four non-profit organizations and one individual were recognized for their exemplary and innovative efforts in furthering the employment objectives of the President’s New Freedom Initiative.
Albertson, New York
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Edmund L. Cortez, President/CEO, Abilities, Inc., and Francine M. Tishman, Executive Director/COO, Abilities, Inc. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
For 50 years, Abilities, Inc. has been providing occupational training and placement services for youth and adults with disabilities, assessing, training and placing more than 5,000 persons each year through its local and national programs.
Abilities, Inc. has created and implemented a comprehensive and multi-faceted service delivery model (The Abilities Service Paradigm), comprising three interrelated and interdependent components: assessment, training, and placement. Assistive Technology is a critical part of each component.
Assistive Technology, Vocational, Job Readiness, and Support assessments are the foundations of the assessment component. Microsoft Office Specialist Training, Business Skills Training, Laboratory Assistant Training, Adult Basic Education, Adapted Driver Education, and the Steps Toward Employment Program (STEP, for consumers with limited cognitive ability) comprise the training component. Finally, the placement component is built from Pre-Employment and Employment Services to Post-Employment Services and Support Services.
Through private funding Abilities, Inc. has established a Center for Assistive Technology, comprising an impressive array of assistive devices. These assistive devices are available to job seekers with disabilities both during training and (on a loan basis) during their work experience. The organization's inventory of Assistive Technology equipment is extensive, including the most advanced and widely used array of assistive devices.
Abilities, Inc. makes business needs and marketing to the business community a priority. The organization has established a corporate service arm, the National Business & Disability Council), which consists of federal agencies and more than 200 Fortune 1000 companies
Seventy-two percent of the people with disabilities who participate in Abilities' training programs are being hired immediately after completing the program. The employees are realizing an average weekly increase in wages of $256 and experiencing promotions that rival peers without disabilities.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Eric Stevens, CEO, Courage Center. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
Courage Center, a rehabilitation center for people with disabilities, is a leader and innovator in the disability field with services, expertise, advocacy and partnerships that promote quality of life, independence and community integration for individuals with physical disabilities and their families. Its staff includes 530 regular employees, 1,000 seasonal employees, and 2,300 volunteers. The Courage Center is being recognized for two programs: Vocational and Community-Based Services and the Assistive Technology Program
The Vocational and Community-Based Services" program partners with people having moderate to severe disabilities to evaluate work strengths and challenges, explore work directions, develop new skills, find meaningful work, and keep a current job. Clients, typically aged 35 to 54, have a recently acquired disability or have a disability that has exacerbated and resulted in at least three functional limitations. These clients find they must begin again in the job market.
This program provides individualized counseling to clients, including assessment, training, and placement. The service works closely with a Business Advisory Council and area businesses to develop its computer curriculum, based on business requirements.
The Assistive Technology Program serves as a resource for consumers and health care professional on the latest assistive technology information, equipment and services. This program partnered with Habitat for Humanity to build the first Habitat homes that incorporates affordability, accessibility and assistive technology features. A CD-ROM virtual tour that highlights the nearly 100 access features of the first home was distributed to 500 architects, builders, consumers and therapists, 150 of whom have disabilities.
All Courage Center programs and services rely on the this program. The Assistive Technology Program has also created an extensive assistive technology resource on the Courage Center's web site, offering information on products, vendors, service providers, software and hard ware.
Central to the program is the assistive technology lab, which is used by five to ten persons per day. The lab has helped identify what people with disabilities want to use and what problems or challenges may exist
The Vocational and Community-Based Services' program client numbers are significantly increasing from the 490 total in 2002. The first quarter of 2003 served 169 clients (extrapolates to 676 per annum). From 2001 to 2002, this program increased its placements from 56 to 69 – all at competitive wages. In 2002, 72 percent of those actively seeking jobs were placed as compared to 47 percent in 2001. The number of those enjoying fringe benefits doubled, from 21 to 41 from 2001 to 2002. The assistive technology lab has seen a 200 percent user increase since opening.
Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Stephanie T. Willey, President-elect, Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce is the first local Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a Business Leadership Network in order to advance employment of people with disabilities. The Chamber has used its existing resources to work closely with the local One-Stop Career Center and the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services to influence training programs and communicate the needs of business, ultimately providing linkages with its business members
To accomplish this, the Chamber embarked upon a coordinated and well-executed plan that addressed six specific areas: business buy-in, private partnerships, public-private partnerships, access to workers, myths and attitudes, and transportation. The Chamber focused on training, placement and resources.
The Chamber achieved business buy-in by changing the local perception of the Business Leadership Network from a nonprofit or a state agency to a business strategy to deal with a declining population of potential employees over the next decade. It achieved private partnerships by recognizing that regional interests trumped parochial interests, and worked with neighboring Chambers to establish a regional Business Leadership Network. The public-private partnerships' initiative recognized that the Chamber could be instrumental in motivating the Division of Rehabilitation Services to partner with the One-Stop, and ultimately collocate with it.
Addressing access to workers resulted in a Web site that links candidates to employers, based on the business location and the candidate's availability. The Chamber tackled myths and attitudes with locally aired public service videos, collateral materials, and a Diversity Conference. Transportation issues were mitigated through disability-awareness training for drivers.
The Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce initiatives research member needs, promote assistive technologies to the Division of Rehabilitation Services and other entities, provide on-site training programs, share innovative programs and raise public awareness.
Successful competitive employment outcomes with the Division of Rehabilitation Services rose to 247 in 2002, from 182 in 1998. The retention rate is 85 percent. A nonprofit community rehabilitation program, Lower Shore Enterprise, reported an increase in placements from 32 in 1998 to 84 in 2002. The employment success of former Rehabilitation Services' customers has caused a dramatic increase in referrals from school systems to the state agency. On occasion, the Division of Rehabilitation Services aggressively recruited persons with disabilities because there have been more jobs than available workers.
Sensory Access Foundation
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Diana L. Drews, Executive Director, Sensory Access Foundation. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
Founded in 1973, the Sensory Access Foundation provides comprehensive and innovative approaches to place and retain people who are blind or visually impaired into competitive employment. The Foundation aims to provide the highest quality service with the goal of achieving 100 percent job retention.
Recognizing that technology is the equalizer that allows a person who is blind or visually impaired to work competitively, Sensory Access Foundation's Employment Preparation, Job Development and Placement Program provides access to technology evaluation and training, job preparation, and placement/retention services, as well as on-site technology training, if necessary. Part of the job development package includes "Project Open Doors," where staff break down every aspect of a job including accessibility of the technology involved, ergonomics, lighting and other aspects of the work. A complete evaluation of job accessibility makes placements more expedient because job developers can concentrate on the exact skills required by the job and can pre-screen candidates more thoroughly.
If the Foundation does not have a qualified candidate for a particular position, the organization shares the position information with a network of community rehabilitation providers. Its Business Advisory Council, composed of representatives from business, labor, and service organizations, supports the Foundation in meeting its goals.
The Foundation's services have expanded to Santa Rosa, and plans are underway for further expansion to San Francisco. The organization also hopes to add a "virtual office" component in order to serve more clients, using cell phones, lap top computers and remote Internet access cards for computers and printers.
Over 60 percent of the individuals the Sensory Access Foundation serves are Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI) recipients. The organization's average Return-on-Investment (ROI) for fiscal year 2002 is 140 percent. The ROI is based on the comparison between the cost of the organization's employment program and the total savings in reduced disability benefits, plus federal and state taxes paid by the same people.
The Sensory Access Foundation is one of only a handful of agencies in the United States addressing the technology issues of blind and visually impaired individuals. Since 1995, 1,819 individuals have received services: 447 received access technology evaluations, 362 received training, and 1,052 were placed or retained in competitive employment, with a 97 percent retention rate. Positions filled range from court reporter to electrical engineer.
Booz Allen Hamilton
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Dr. Ralph Shrader, CEO, Booz Allen Hamilton. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
Booz Allen Hamilton is a leading management and technology consulting firm with more than 12,000 employees in 100 offices worldwide. Among its services, Booz Allen Hamilton offers clients guidance in creating workplace environments that support employment of persons with disabilities. Further, the company strives to be an "Employer of Choice" for job seekers with disabilities. Booz Allen Hamilton recognizes the power of daily interactions among employees with and without disabilities in building a strong corporate workforce built on diversity and respect.
Booz Allen focuses on initiatives to improve and increase employment opportunities for individuals. Top management staff serve on boards of disability community-based organizations. Recruiters seek opportunities to enhance their disability awareness skills. The company has a full-time interpreter on staff and holds a quarterly Disability Forum to provide an exchange of information and assess disability needs. Efforts to target job candidates with disabilities include advertising on select web sites such as Ability Forum and the ARIS Job Board Directory, hosting disability-related events, and partnering with universities. A central accommodations fund absorbs the cost of reasonable accommodations for employees.
An in-house Systems Resource Center provides a state of the art technology environment for Booz Allen clients and users to demonstrate and test accessibility and assistive technology. The company's web sites are accessible to individuals with disabilities. Computer-Based Disabilities Training is available to all staff. Topics includes accommodations, workplace etiquette and recruiting candidates with disabilities, plus a module targeted to team supervisors and managers on ways to integrate workers with disabilities. A weekly electronic newsletter includes disability-related announcements.
Booz Allen Hamilton recognizes the achievements of employees with disabilities and actively participates in community events during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The company also sponsors disability programs in the community.
In October 1995, as part of its Disability Employment Awareness Month recognition, the company launched the Emerging Leaders Program. This program offers area youth with disabilities a two-month paid summer internship designed to provide a meaningful work experience and an opportunity to develop leadership skills. Two out of seven 2002 interns in this program accepted full time offers of employment following graduation. Twelve students participated in the 2003 program.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Mark Feidler, COO, Cingular Wireless. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
Cingular Wireless is the second largest wireless company in the United States. The company serves more than 22 million voice and data customers, provides service in 43 of the top 50 markets, recorded 2002 annual revenues of more than $14.7 billion, and employs more than 33,500 people.
Cingular has taken a unique interdisciplinary approach through its Disability-Inclusive Policy to support full inclusion, employment, and career advancement opportunities for people with disabilities. Cingular worked to dispel myths about disabilities through innovative advertising, education and community outreach; developed tools to improve communication; encouraged employment and career advancement opportunities through collaborative efforts including dynamic public/private partnerships; created a disability friendly environment and mentoring opportunities; and leveraged the full benefit of employing people with disabilities to better address the needs of its customers and communities. The most public example has been the memorable 2000 Super Bowl ad that featured a critically acclaimed artist with a disability.
Cingular sponsors various organizations and initiatives, locally and nationally, that advance the employment of persons with disabilities, including National Disability Mentoring Day. The company has hosted three "Ticket to Work" forums that were attended by over 100 national companies. Employees sit on advisory committees for three of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers and on the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center. Cngular also created a national Wireless Access Task Force comprised of national disability leaders to ensure greater access to wireless technology.
Internally, Cingular seeks to ensure that people with disabilities are aware of company-wide opportunities. Job announcements are posted with Career Builder and jobacccess.org, which targets the disability community. All employees are required to complete web-based training on disability, and the company has developed disability etiquette training materials for manager. Recruiters at the National Call Center are made aware of the importance of developing relationships with local disability organizations.
In its effort to ensure that its stores are accessible, Cingular's corporate real estate intranet contains information and links that inform personnel about all the issues. Cingular educates vendors on disability issues and provides billing and product information in accessible formats. Recognizing its market demographics, Cingular provides dedicated TTY lines for its customers' care, offers bills in Braille and other alternate formats, and offers the Voice Connect Disability Exemption Program that waives the monthly service charge of this voice-activated dialing program.
Giant Eagle, Inc.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Dale Giovengo, Human Resources Director, Giant Eagle, Inc. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
Giant Eagle, a privately owned retail grocery chain, with 200 stores operating in four states and 35,000 employees, has developed a unique school-to-work program for people with disabilities, called "Project Opportunity." Initiated in 1991, the goal of "Project Opportunity" is to give students with disabilities (ages 16-21) realistic employment targets, independence, self-confidence and ultimately a permanent job with Giant Eagle. Working through more than 30 community-based organizations, including Pittsburgh Vision Services, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Conroy Education Center and The Pittsburgh Public Schools, Giant Eagle mentors students with disabilities through three training phases that lead to permanent employment.
The first phase, education, applies both to the students and their teachers. Teachers are paired with students and work with them for 20 days on job readiness skills, such as attendance, appearance and attitude. Concurrently, Giant Eagle staff train the teachers in learning the tasks and jobs their students will be assigned. The second phase brings students to a centrally located Giant Eagle to work in selected departments for three to four weeks. Students are then evaluated, and if successful, they are assigned to a position in a Giant Eagle close to home. In the final phase the students, with the assistance of a job coach, become permanent employees. Giant Eagle works closely with the job coach to ensure that employees maintain performance levels, and provides retraining or reassignment if necessary.
Giant Eagle has modified its hiring process to accommodate people with disabilities, including those with sight, hearing, mobility and learning disabilities. The company also provides workplace accommodations, including assistive technology, to assist employees in performing their job tasks effectively. Every two years, Giant Eagle provides intensive Disability Awareness training for its human resource managers by inviting non-profit agencies to conduct sensitivity training in day camp workshops. The workshops provide an Americans with Disabilities Act review by law professionals, guidance on interviewing techniques for hiring people with disabilities, and disability simulation experiences for the managers. The workshops also directly address misperceptions and attitudinal barriers.
Giant Eagle has hired hundreds of people with disabilities in positions ranging from lot attendant to baker, from customer service clerk to meat cutter, from playroom attendant to human resource manager. Employees who work in these positions have various disabilities, including deafness and hearing impairment, blindness and vision impairment, mental retardation, psychiatric and learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida and paraplegia. Of 315 employees with disabilities currently on the Giant Eagle payroll, 56 have been with the company between 10 and 34 years, and 79 have been on the job between 5 and 9 years.
Armonk, New York
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Diane J. Gherson, Vice President, Compensation and Benefits, IBM. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
IBM, which uses advanced information technology to provide customer solutions, operates in more than 160 countries worldwide and derives more than half of its revenues from sales outside the United States. It employs 145,705 in the United States alone.
IBM has a 100-year heritage of commitment to persons with disabilities that permeates the organization. IBM's 39 most senior executives are involved with the company's Executive Diversity Task Forces. Four of these executives lead the Global Executive Task Force for People with Disabilities.
The list of products IBM has developed for persons with disabilities is exhaustive, including the first powered Braille typewriter, the Screen reader, Voicetype Dictation, Speech Recognition, the "Trackpoint" computer-pointing device, and the Home Page Reader.
In 1914, IBM hired its first person with a disability. In 1985, IBM established the National Support Center for People with Disabilities to provide information and awareness about technologies that could be used by people with disabilities. In 1995, it created eight Executive Diversity Task Forces (including one for persons with disabilities). The task force for persons with disabilities has three vital work areas: Accommodations, Accessibility and Attitude. The company has created 11 Diversity Network Groups to support persons with disabilities. IBM also has Blind/Visually Impaired and Deaf/Hard of Hearing Forums.
In 1997, IBM partnered with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to establish a summer/internship program for college/university students. This program has exposed a steady stream of highly talented interns to IBM employment. To attract middle/high school students, it has initiated five separate programs.
Since 2000, IBM has in place a "Corporate Instruction" issued by the Chief Executive Officer that all products and services are to be accessible to all. In the same year, it established the Global Accessibility Center. In 2002, IBM issued its U.S. and Global Diversity Policy Letter that includes persons with disabilities.
IBM's recruiting and hiring programs are exemplary. For example, the Line Champions program identifies managers who have experience hiring and working with people with disabilities. These Line Champions are available to assist other managers through the process of hiring persons with disabilities. Forty-seven percent of IBM's employees with disabilities are in key skill jobs (Software Engineer, IT Support, Development Engineer, Sales, IT Architect, Technician, Marketing) in the United States. Since the implementation of the intern and Champions programs, 236 people with disabilities have been hired, and 137 students have participated summer/internship programs, of whom 29 were hired to full time employment.
IBM has established corporate financing for making workplace accommodations for people with disabilities, thus relieving managers of the financial responsibility. Since 1999, the company has spent $3.6 million on accommodations.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Millie Hewett, Business Development Manager, Manpower, Inc. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
The world's largest employer, Manpower, Inc. is a Fortune 500 company that annually places almost two million workers in jobs through 3,200 offices in 52 countries. Manpower, Inc. has achieved success accommodating, recruiting, hiring, retaining and advancing individuals with disabilities.
Manpower, Inc. has a multi-faceted program that includes an internal Internet system devoted to worksite accommodations for specific disabilities as they relate to the application, interview and assessment process in order to ensure that candidates with disabilities are not screened out of the process. Recognizing that its corporate assessment tools are not compatible with JAWS software, Manpower is working with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Visually Impaired to find a solution. Manpower does a Work Environment Service Call to gather information on business customers' building accessibility and workplace accommodations available to workers with disabilities; once an applicant is matched to a customer site, the company will purchase assistive technology if necessary. Manpower staff are trained in disability awareness, and the company actively develops relationships with Community Rehabilitation Providers around the country to recruit individuals with disabilities.
Manpower staff use zoom-screen technology to evaluate and train applicants with visual disabilities. Communications with deaf applicants are facilitated by sign language interpreters provided through state rehabilitation agencies. Telecommunications devices are provided for deaf individuals, and a special call-in number is available to applicants with speech or hearing impairments. Manpower's Internet training site, the Global Learning Center allows applicants and employees to gain new skills in order to maintain competitive skills.
In June 2002, Manpower formed a partnership with Virginia Commonwealth University's Rehabilitation Research & Training Center to develop a model project that would ultimately increase the employment of people with disabilities. Of 98 individuals referred to this program, 25 individuals with a wide range of disabilities have been placed into competitive employment. All of the referred individuals have received soft skills training, and 15 percent have signed on to the Global Learning Center. Manpower has been 100 percent successful in matching employment goals and placements.
Manpower has made accommodations in its application, interview and assessment process by segmenting the process to allow persons with disabilities the time and ease by which their talents can be properly determined. In addition, the company recognized that candidates with disabilities have a lower rate of computer access than does the general population It, therefore, offers the services of its Help Desk to provide detailed and personal assistance so that those individuals can fully avail themselves of the Global Learning Center resources.
Joyce A. Bender
Chief Executive Officer and President
Bender Consulting Services, Inc.
Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao (L) and former Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy Roy Grizzard (R) present a 2003 Secretary of Labor's New Freedom Initiative Award to Joyce A. Bender of Bender and Associates International, Inc. (DOL Photo/Shawn Moore)
In 1995, Joyce A. Bender, a successful entrepreneur with epilepsy and hearing loss, incorporated Bender Consulting Services, Inc. in order to move Americans with disabilities, including minorities with disabilities, into full-time competitive career opportunities. Bender Consulting is a technology consulting company that provides assistive technology services to its customers, and training on employment of people with disabilities to corporations and government agencies.
Bender Consulting submits qualified candidates with disabilities to a customer with an identified full-time position. When approved by the customer after the interview process, Bender hires the candidate as a consultant. Prior to beginning the assignment with the customer, the consultant goes through a Career Reality Training Program, which covers a range of topics including work ethics, assertiveness and accountability. Bender Consulting provides all necessary accommodations and assistive technology solutions. After 6-9 months on the job, following a positive performance review, the Bender consultant becomes a direct employee of the customer. Bender Consulting monitors progress and supports the consultant to ensure retention and career growth.
Ms. Bender set up her company to be a model employer. Therefore, Bender Consulting Services provides the following benefits to its employees:
- Competitive wages.
- 100% premium paid benefits for employee and family including health, dental, short-term disability, long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) package with matching contribution.
- Training and employee development (e.g., leadership training program). Five employees with disabilities have completed the leadership training program and are serving in leadership positions within the Bender organization.
More than 100 people with disabilities have been employed in a range of professional fields including computer programming, project office support, technical writing, network support, help-desk administration and finance. Over 95 percent of the consultants were hired by Bender Consulting Services' customers, which include Bayer Corporation, Highmark, Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, Alcoa, FedEx Ground, the Federal Government and Mellon Financial.
Ms. Bender speaks nationally to employers to educate them on the business benefits to hiring people with disabilities. She also participates in many state and national disability initiatives. Ms. Bender's demonstrated success and enthusiasm have inspired other business leaders to hire people with disabilities.