Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities

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Disability Employment Awareness Month Resolution

WHEREAS, Florida’s Agency for Persons with Disabilities provides services to more than 50,000 Floridians with developmental disabilities annually so they can live and work in their local communities; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services programs within the Department of Education, assist people with disabilities so they may become employed; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity, through Career Centers, help people with disabilities, including veterans, locate jobs; and

WHEREAS, these four programs have had an overwhelming impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens with disabilities by offering services including job placement, training, support services, and job coaching; and

WHEREAS, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities has assisted 3,581 Floridians with disabilities with maintaining gainful employment, and Vocational Rehabilitation assisted 7,214  people, and Blind Services helped 713 individuals with achieving their employment goals last year; and

WHEREAS, The Able Trust, also known as the Florida Endowment Foundation for Vocational Rehabilitation, has awarded more than $29 million in grants to organizations throughout Florida, enabling thousands of Florida’s citizens with disabilities to enter the workforce; and

WHEREAS, Florida has the third largest population of disabled veterans in the nation with more than 272,000, including more than 2,500 wounded Floridians from service in Afghanistan and Iraq; and

WHEREAS, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of Economic Opportunity are working together to find employment opportunities for veterans with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Department of Economic Opportunity, Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and The Able Trust have substantially contributed to the tax revenues of Florida by helping individuals with disabilities go to work, thus enabling many to leave public assistance and become taxpaying citizens; and

WHEREAS, Florida’s Disability Mentoring Day is hosted on October 15th which provides mentoring and job shadowing employment opportunities for students and job seekers with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, Florida joins the rest of the Nation in recognizing the contributions of the 5.7 million Floridians with disabilities by celebrating October 2014, as Disability Employment Awareness Month with the theme Abilities Work.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Governor and Cabinet of the State of Florida do hereby recognize October 2014, as



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People First! Advocate Award

The Ridge Area Arc’s People First! Advocate Award honors an individual, group or organization which consistently demonstrate a leadership role in the advocacy of people with developmental disabilities. Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) Employment Liaison Jenny Sykes was presented with the Advocate Award on May 16 in Avon Park. Ridge Area Arc CEO Rhonda Beckman said “She is an exemplary advocate for APD customers throughout Hardee, Highlands, and Polk counties.”

Sykes coordinates multiple activities of agencies, service organizations, businesses, and providers to champion, educate, and promote hiring practices that target individuals with developmental disabilities. She works very closely with Ridge Area Arc’s supported employment staff to identify barriers and various misconceptions that employers may have about hiring individuals with disabilities.

Sykes also works to facilitate open lines of communication with family members and other natural supports of APD customers so they understand the Social Security Work Incentives and benefits are still retained. It goes without saying that her tenacity has paid off. She has provided the foundation to cultivate new business partnerships, develop community awareness, and helped employers understand the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes wins award

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc

Jenny Sykes is recognized by the Arc

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Nominate an Exceptional Employer Today!

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities is looking for businesses that are committed to employing individuals with disabilities. The agency is accepting nominations of outstanding businesses from across the state until August 23. To submit a nomination, visit APDcares.org to complete the form. APD and other disability agencies will recognize the winning employers on Wednesday, October 9. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The awards event will be held at the Tallahassee City Commission Chambers, 300 South Adams Street. Information displays will be in the Second Floor Mezzanine beginning at 8:30. The employer recognition will begin at 9:30 a.m. Some of the organizations participating are Vocational Rehabilitation, Blind Services, Able Trust, Veterans’ Affairs, City of Tallahassee, and the Department of Economic Opportunity.

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Exceptional Employers 2012

We recognized seven exceptional Florida employers this morning at our annual Exceptional Employer awards ceremony.  And what an event it was!  We were absolutely thrilled with the number of people who participated in our event this morning.  We had several wonderful speakers including APD Director Barbara Palmer, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Stacey Powell, an APD client and Sonic employee, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, and Sue Homant, President and CEO of Able Trust.  Able Trust is a direct support organization of Vocational Rehabilitation.  They provide grants to people with disabilities who want to work.

The seven honored businesses for 2012 are: 

Baptist Health South Florida (Miami)

Baptist Health South Florida (BHSF) realizes that employees are its greatest asset in accomplishing their mission with more than 105 people with disabilities on the payroll. BHSF is committed to learning about, mentoring, and employing people with developmental disabilities. Baptist has participated in Disability Mentoring Day for the past 3 years and has allowed 34 people to conduct job shadowing. Additionally, this year the hospital hosted four paid interns for 16 weeks. At the end of the internship, the hospital hired one of those individuals to join its permanent workforce.

Habitat for Humanity (Pasco County)

One way Habitat for Humanity raises money to build housing is through its Re-Stores, which sell donated home improvement goods, furniture, building materials, and appliances. This organization has gone above and beyond in making sure its seven employees with disabilities are welcomed and accommodated in its Re-Stores.  They ensured their new building was wheelchair accessible when relocating so an employee would not have any issues maneuvering through the building.

Mangrove Mike’s Café (Islamorada)

This business has a strong and deep commitment to having people with disabilities working at the restaurant. The owner, Mike Forster, brought some of his employees with him from the keys to help him accept the award, including Jack Atkinson, who receives services from the Monroe Association of Remarkable Citizens.  Over the years, the restaurant has helped 12 individuals with disabilities go to work.  Forster will be the keynote speaker for the Upper Keys celebration of Disability Mentoring Day this month.

Miller’s Ale House (Daytona Beach)

This restaurant has four employees with disabilities of the nearly 50 individuals on its payroll—that is almost 10 percent of employees have disabilities. Most of these people have visual disabilities and work as silverware rollers. This employer has developed job opportunities to capitalize on the employee’s talents, and they have also made accommodations when needed.

Pensacola Blue Wahoos

This new minor league baseball team began including people with disabilities in its workforce when it began hiring people in April for various positions.  The organization already has five individuals with disabilities on its payroll, with one gentleman with Autism being featured in the news recently due to his excellent customer service as a ticket taker at the ball park. All individuals were included in employee activities and meetings. This employer worked with each individual to remove any barriers that may exist.

Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center (St. Pete)

Sirata Beach Resort and Conference Center of St. Petersburg currently employs 11 people with disabilities. The hotel partners with Vincent House which helps individuals with mental health issues enter the workforce. Sirata Beach Resort has employed more than 26 people with disabilities in the past four years. This business has a dedicated commitment to help those with disabilities go to work.

Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Orlando Resortin Orlando hires many, many people with all types of disabilities in its workforce of 12,000. Universal ensures that proper accommodations are made, including having on staff American Sign Language Interpreters for employees with hearing loss. Universal purchased a video relay interpreting service and placed it at high traffic areas for guests and team members if an ASL interpreter was not immediately available. They have exceeded expectations with assisting people with visual disabilities, with more than a dozen people with vision loss hired in the past five years.

If you missed our Tallahassee event this morning you can check out tomorrow (October 19) at http://thefloridachannel.org/.   Enjoy!