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Lex Frieden Employment Awards

About the Awards

The Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities is proud to announce 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.

front and back of Lex Frieden medallion

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.

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.

Download and print a Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure in PDF format

Download and print Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure information in Word format

The Lex Frieden Employment Awards Brochure is also available in large print upon request.

Read about previous Lex Frieden Employment Awards Winners.


How to Submit a Nomination

Nominations are due by July 15 of each year. Please submit the appropriate Entry Form for your nomination. See Submission Guidelines for more information.

The group and individual categories are:

The Martha Arbuckle Award recognizes the most innovative local committee project, and is presented in memory of Austin's long-time disability advocate Martha Arbuckle.

Employer Awards are given in four categories - Small Employer (25 or fewer employees), Medium Employer (26 to 500 employees), Large Employer (more than 500 employees), and Non-Profit Employer. Each category serves to recognize employers in Texas who have fostered a diverse and accessible workplace and who have developed innovative ways to integrate people with disabilities into the workplace.

The Entrepreneurship Award is awarded to a living entrepreneur with a disability who has shown extraordinary ingenuity and drive to create and sustain a successful business that has created jobs and accessible services.

The Governor's Trophy is the Governor's Committee's highest honor and is awarded to the person who has achieved the highest success in enhancing the empowerment and employment of Texans with disabilities. The Governor's Trophy recognizes long-term commitment and outstanding efforts at both the community and state level.

Nominations, including self-nominations, in any of these categories are encouraged. A completed submission form specific to the category, along with any supporting material, can be sent by email or postal mail to:

Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities
P.O. Box 12428
Austin TX 78711

512-463-5740 - Phone
512-463-5746 - TDD or Dial 711 for Relay Services
512-463-5745 - Fax
Contact Jo Virgil for more information.


2014 Awards Ceremony

The 2014 Lex Frieden Employment Awards will be held in Dallas on Tuesday, October 21, at 11:00am at the Baylor Hospital Conference Center, hosted by the Dallas Mayor's Committee for the Employment of People with Disabilities. For more information, contact Jim Pierce at at 214-498-9620 or or Jo Virgil at or 512-463-5740.


2014 Lex Frieden Employment Award Winners

The Governor's Trophy

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

Entrepreneurship Award

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

Large Employer Award

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

Medium Employer Award

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

Small Employer Award

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

Non-Profit Employer

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

Martha Arbuckle Award for a Local Committee Project

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


Above and Beyond:  Employment Practices

Suggestions for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for ALL people to help make your business or service stand out.

Above and Beyond: Employment Practices in Word format

Above and Beyond: Employment Practices in PDF format

Download latest version of Acrobat Reader here

What Can YOU Do to Advance the Employment of People with Disabilities?

In support of the What Can YOU Do? outreach effort, the Campaign for Disability Employment is pleased to present the following video tools. Help us spread the word about the value and talent that people with disabilities bring to the workplace by sharing these videos and playing the Campaign for Disability Employment:
View the “I Can” public service announcement (PSA).
View the What Can YOU Do? Outreach Toolkit.