Press Release: Shining Stars Award Winners Highlight Importance of Disability Employment

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For Immediate Release

Date: October 30, 2020
Contact: Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations -

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) and its Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) have announced the winners of their annual Shining Stars of Disability Employment Awards, an event designed to honor individuals and employers who demonstrate exceptional efforts in the recruitment, hiring, retention, and advancement of people with disabilities. The awards will be presented on October 29, during National Disability Employment Awareness Month. 

“Equitable access to employment for people with disabilities has always been an important issue to me. Thankfully, technology, societal perceptions, and policy changes have expanded employment opportunities for people with disabilities, but there is still plenty of work to do,” said Colorado Lt. Governor Dianne Primavera. “Unfortunately, the current economic slow down and COVID-19 safety measures have been especially difficult for this community, but I remain optimistic that the flexibilities employers had to enact in response to COVID-19, including but not limited to remote work, will open more employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities had an unemployment rate of about 66 percent in 2019, more than double that of people without disabilities, according to the American Community Survey” said Kristin Corash, Director of DVR. “One reason for this disparity can be attributed to employers’ misconceptions about disability in the workplace. At the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we work to make sure employers know that by creating policies and practices inclusive to people with disabilities, they can deepen their talent pool, improve employee morale and engagement, increase retention, and benefit from the significant skills and talents workers with disabilities bring to the workplace.”

This year’s awards will take place during a banner year for vocational rehabilitation; 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities (ADA), landmark legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, state and local government, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, and telecommunications. 

2020 also marks 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Fess Act, which established the Vocational Rehabilitation program for civilians with disabilities, referred to as "The National Civilian Vocational Rehabilitation Act." 

This year’s winners are:

Larimer County Human Resources, Nicole Berg: Large Employer
Mile High United Way, Sue Schulhoff: Small Employer
Sodexo, Northwest Community College, Blake Carothers: Rural Champion
Shirley Martinez, Colorado Springs Utilities: Individual

Employers who wish to learn more about how to recruit, hire, and retain people with disabilities, contact Eric Clark, Manager of Business Relations at NAME AND EMAIL. People with disabilities can learn how to advance their career goals by contacting their local Vocational Rehabilitation Office, where they can find vocational rehabilitation counselors who can create customized career plans based on the individual’s interests and abilities. You can find your local vocational rehabilitation office here.