Courage Center, a national rehabilitation and resource center for people with disabilities, won the 2003 U.S. Department of Labor New Freedom Initiative Award. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao presented the award to Courage Center and nine other winners at a Labor Department luncheon in Washington, D.C.
Established in 2002 by Labor Secretary Chao, the New Freedom Initiative Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have demonstrated exemplary and innovative efforts in furthering President Bush’s New Freedom Initiative employment objectives to ensure that Americans with disabilities have the opportunity to learn and develop skills, engage in productive work, make choices about their daily lives and participate fully in their communities.
“[We are] honored to receive this distinguished award from the U.S. Department of Labor,” said Courage Center Chief Executive Officer Eric Stevens. “To receive this award during our 75th anniversary year is testimony of the hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteers and many community partners over the past 75 years to foster a world where abilities and disabilities become possibilities.”
Winners of the U.S. Department of Labor New Freedom Initiative Award must have developed and implemented a multi-faceted program designed to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities through increased access to assistive technologies and the use of innovative training, hiring and retention techniques.
Courage Center won the award for its innovative Vocational and Community-Based Services and Assistive Technology programs. The Vocational and Community-Based Services program helps people with moderate to severe disabilities evaluate work strengths and challenges, explore career options, develop new skills and find meaningful work or keep a current job.
Courage Center’s Assistive Technology program serves as a resource for consumers with disabilities and healthcare professionals on the latest assistive technology information, equipment and services. In 2001, the Assistive Technology program opened an Assistive Technology Lab that allows people with disabilities to experiment with a wide range of adaptations and assistive technology they might need in the workplace. Courage Center also began a partnership with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity in 2001 and built the first Habitat home that incorporates assistive technology features. The project serves as a national model for other organizations interested in creating affordable, accessible housing.