State council presents awards to those who make a positive difference in Minnesota

A group serving veterans and the longtime director of Southeast Minnesota Center for Independent Living (SEMCIL) are among the 2012 Minnesota State Council on Disability (MNSCOD) award winners. They were honored Oct. 18 at the DS Event Center in St. Paul.

The event also highlighted Emergency Preparedness Month and National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It included a keynote speech by Joseph Shapiro and a panel discussion.

National Public Radio correspondent Shapiro is author of the ground-breaking disability-rights book “NO PITY”: People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement. He discussed how infrastructure is crucial to successful employment for people with disabilities.

Longtime SEMCIL Director Vicki Dalle Molle was honored with the Mentorship Award. She led SEMCIL for more than a decade before recently accepting a position with the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS). Under her leadership SEMCIL has provided extensive services to people with disabilities from independent living skills, to home care and beyond.

The Disabled American Veterans of Minnesota won the Above and Beyond Veterans’ Employment Award. With the challenge to hire additional employees, the organization focused on new returning combat veterans disabled in the current wars. The DAV has successfully hired five young Iraq/Afghanistan disabled veterans.

Mountain Iron resident Bob Brown won the Access Award. Brown, who is the Access Director at Center for Independent Living of Northeastern Minnesota Services, has been involved with the center’s ramp project for 18 years. He’s helped build more than 700 home access ramps for people who use wheelchairs.

The Rogers Walgreens Distribution Center was honored as the large Employer of the Year. The facility in Rogers employs about two dozen workers with disabilities, some deaf or hard-of-hearing, and some who have other types of disabilities. For example, Walgreens supports deaf employees by hiring sign language interpreters and promoting signing in the workplace.

The small Employer of the Year award winner is LJP Enterprises Waste & Recycling in North Mankato. This small firm is an exemplary employer in providing accommodations for applicants and employees during the job application process, in the work environment. It provides disability awareness training to employees, job restructuring for employees with disabilities, requested and paid for sign language interpreters, and modified training materials.

Cargill’s LEARN Program, which is based in Hopkins, won the corporate Mentorship Award. This program is committed to removing barriers to employment and post-secondary education for high school students with disabilities. It serves young adults with disabilities, ages 18-21, who are enrolled in Transition Plus, a shared student transition program between Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minnetonka school districts. The program providing individual career exploration and job skill development through work-based learning experiences with Cargill businesses and functions. The long-term goal is to help students develop skills and independence to enable their success in entry-level employment and/or explore post-secondary training and education opportunities aligned with their career goals.

Bruce Lattu of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) won the Minnesota Award. Regardless of his own disability, Lattu always goes out of his way improve someone’s day. Throughout his career he has worked to empower those with disabilities to be self-advocates. He has worked to ensure that MnDOT as well as other state agencies are aware of not only the minimum expectations of what the law requires. Also, why it is not only right, but good to go beyond those basic levels. In his more than 20 years of service to the State of Minnesota as an employee, Lattu has worked to empower others to ask for the reasonable accommodations they are entitled to and has worked to find creative ways to meet the needs of people with disabilities so that they can get and maintain employment. Through his work on such committees as the Central Corridor Project the community at large has a greater awareness of disability, learning that it doesn’t have to be a scary thing to be avoided.

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