SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – The state of Illinois today honored the achievements of those who have done an outstanding job of providing equal opportunity and access to people with disabilities, including the Illinois Tollway and a number of other state agencies that have participated in the Successful Disability Opportunities program. The awards were presented by Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Director Rocco J. Claps and Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary (IDHS) Michelle R.B. Saddler at a ceremony of the state’s Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities (ICED).
"People with disabilities have the same drive to achieve the American dream, to be successfully employed and fully participate in life," Governor Pat Quinn said. “Today we honor those who have helped people achieve their dreams. I'm fully committed to making Illinois the nation's leading employer of people with disabilities.”
The ICED’s Agency of the Year award recognized the Illinois Tollway as a leader among state agencies for its approach to implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act. The Tollway fully engages in a flexible and interactive process to explore reasonable, effective and sometimes creative accommodations. The Tollway currently employs 165 people with disabilities, about 11 percent of its workforce of nearly 1,500 employees.
“The Illinois Tollway values the diversity of our workforce and we are continually striving to improve access to our employment opportunities,” Executive Director Kristi Lafleur said. “While we have become more proactive when it comes to addressing the needs of people with disabilities, we always look to deepen the Illinois Tollway’s talent pool by hiring the best and brightest people available.”
“It is an honor to be here today to spotlight the truly exceptional performance of these organizations and individuals who have all worked so hard to create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the workforce,” IDHR Director Claps said. “The Illinois Tollway was deservedly singled out for recognition for its outstanding affirmative action record in employing people with disabilities, including recruitment, hiring and accommodation practices.”
“We salute the Tollway and all the other honorees for their dedication to creating a workplace environment that gives every worker an opportunity to fulfill their potential,” IDHS Secretary Saddler said.
The Legislator of Year award was presented to State Representative Esther Golar for her work to expand opportunities for people with disabilities around the state.
ICED gave Certificates of Award to the following state agencies for hiring employees through the successful Disability Opportunities Program: the Departments of Public Health, Natural Resources, Healthcare and Family Services, Revenue, Veterans Affairs, and Human Services, as well as the Gaming Board and Illinois State Police.
The ICED award for Employee of the Year went to David Dailey, a Department of Transportation employee who has devoted his professional career to expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The ICED award for a non-profit went to two organizations this year: the Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation and the Chicago Zoological Society, which operates the Brookfield Zoo, incorporating many programs and events for guests to the zoo with disabilities.
In the media category, ICED awarded the Willowbrook High School Musical Junior with its cast of students with disabilities.
The ICED Advocate of the Year award was awarded posthumously to Dan Dickerson, a former IDHS employee and committee member. Dan helped countless individuals with disabilities around the state by working to broaden access and opportunities for all.
ICED represents the interests of more than 4,000 employees with disabilities in state government. The awards program promotes independence, access, and opportunities for employees with disabilities. The ceremony in Springfield also featured a presentation of a caterer who received assistance from the Division of Rehabilitation Services to open her own business. A panel discussion about opportunities for business owners with disabilities in Illinois was also held.
For additional information on ICED, please contact Susan Allen at the Department of Human Rights, at (217) 785-5119 (V), 1-866-740-3953 (TTY), or Susan.Allen@Illinois.gov or visit www.state.il.us/iced.