Over 150 people from around the state attended the Minnesota State Council on Disability’s Annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday, October 27, 2005. The event recognized individuals and organizations committed to eliminating societal and personal barriers that exist for Minnesotans living with a disability.
Jennifer Sheehy-Keller, the President’s appointed Special Assistant for Employment to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) and Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Education delivered the keynote address. Ms. Sheehy-Keller discussed her experience trying to find employment as an individual with a disability. She also talked a little about steps the Bush Administration has taken to increase employment opportunities available for individuals with disabilities.
A special award for Outstanding Achievement was given to Joel Ulland and John Tschida, co-chairs of the Minnesota Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities. Their determination at the state legislature this past session resulted in instrumental changes in services for Minnesotans with disabilities.
Cliff Poetz received the first-ever Governor Award. Cliff is a co-founder and former President of People First – Minnesota, a self-advocacy organization for persons with disabilities. As one of the first self-advocates in the state, Cliff has helped many individuals with disabilities find their own voice. Cliff continues be a voice for the disability community on both state and national issues.
The State Council would like to congratulate this year’s recipients and nominees:
• Employers of the Year: Novel Cup & Northern Lights Bookstore offer individuals with disabilities opportunities to do satisfying work and provide valuable services to their communities.
• Entrepreneur Award: Harris Communications is a leading source for sign language books, TTYs, amplified telephones, signalers and vibrating clocks.
• Access Award: Stageberg, Beyer, Sachs, Architects recently designed the changes for the Elmer L Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus to ensure its accessibility for everyone.
• Access Award: Bobbi Cordano, Director of Disability Services at the University of Minnesota, made available countless opportunities for students, faculty and staff with disabilities.
• Media Award: Tim Benjamin, editor of Access Press, ensures issues relating to the disability community are accurately portrayed by the media and ensures that the disability community has a strong voice in Minnesota.
• Community Award: Steve Erickson, owner of Lanesboro Minnesota, offers tourists with disabilities the prospect of taking part in stimulating outdoor activities.
• Distinguished Service Award: Karen Quammen, the Workplace Inclusion Coordinator at Medtronic, concentrates her efforts on attracting diversity in the workplace, especially employment of persons with disabilities. She has also designed mentorship opportunities for students with disabilities in Minnesota.
• Chair’s Award: Steve Thovson, Director for the Southwestern Center for Independent Living in Marshall MN, has been active in the independent living movement for over twenty years.
Other nominees for the Governor Award included:
• Ron Biss is a strong advocate for accessibility in the state. His contributions have resulted in better access for all people throughout his community.
• Judge Catherine Anderson is a vocal leader in the legal community. She has continued to fight for the rights of all persons in the community and workplace.
• Tom Carey’s advocacy on local transportation and access issues has resulted in changes both at the city and state level.
• Joel Ulland and John Tschida successfully pushed for important provisions of the Minnesotans with Disability Act during the 2005 legislative session. Without their efforts, many services vital to Minnesotans with disabilities would have been decreased or cut.
The Council would like to thank everyone who attended the luncheon, making it the most successful yet. We hope to see everyone again next year!