The Women’s Center of Orlando  was recently recognized by the state of Florida for hiring people with disabilities and for being exceptional employers of people with special abilities. The businesses from around the state were honored with a plaque made by individuals with unique abilities. The 12th annual celebration was held at Tallahassee City Hall as part of recognizing October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Blind Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation presented the Exceptional Employer Awards to companies that have made a strong commitment to employing people with special abilities.  Event sponsors were the Able Trust, City of Tallahassee, and RESPECT of Florida.

The 2017 award-winning businesses are:

  • The Women’s Center of Central Florida
  • Boca Raton Resort and Club
  • Cunningham Pest Control of Palm Beach County
  • Dosatron of Clearwater
  • Embassy Suites of Ft. Lauderdale
  • Martin Health System of Stuart
  • Piggly Wiggly of Quincy
  • Planet Fitness of Panama City
  • Publix
  • Sodexo (Tallahassee, St. Petersburg, and Daytona Beach)

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “I am so excited to recognize these 10 exceptional businesses today. These deserving companies have made a commitment to employing a diverse workforce. These businesses know that individuals with special abilities are some of the most dedicated employees you can find.”

Cissy Proctor, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said, “The most important issue to families across Florida are jobs. All individuals, regardless of abilities, want good jobs to provide for themselves and their families. I am proud to see these Exceptional Employer Award winners and so many other businesses including all individuals in the workforce. I hope additional companies will see that there are many people with unique and diverse abilities ready to contribute to our state.”

“The Division of Blind Services strives to ensure that more employers recognize the benefits of hiring blind and visually impaired individuals and the many ways they can contribute to our economy,” said Division of Blind Services Director Robert L. Doyle III. “Persons with disabilities, just like their peers, have talents and skills that will further build on and advance Florida’s workforce. I encourage more businesses to follow in the footsteps of today’s honorees.”

Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Allison Flanagan said, “We are so honored to recognize these employers who are leading the way in building an inclusive workforce and looking beyond the disability. Individuals with disabilities offer a broad pool of talents and tend to stay on the job longer than employees without disabilities. Given the opportunity, individuals with disabilities are able to show their skills, loyalty, and determination and become successful members of the community. Without the support of outstanding employers, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation would not have been able to assist nearly 6,000 individuals in the last year to successfully obtain or maintain employment. Hiring people with disabilities is a win-win for everyone!”

The Women’s Center is one of the largest private practices in Central Florida specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. This business goes the extra mile to teach job skills and hire people with all types of abilities. Medical Director and Founder of The Women’s Center is Dr. Douglas Gearity. Job Coach Ana Morris mentioned to Dr. Gearity what she did for a living, and he immediately asked her to help him hire someone with unique abilities. Now he has four people with disabilities employed at his offices. Dr. Gearity has repeatedly said he wishes all his employees were as conscientious as the people placed by Morris because they arrive early and leave on time. Dr. Gearity has demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to supporting these individuals in the work place. One individual didn’t want a promotion because she thought she had done something wrong in her old job. Dr. Gearity patiently explained to her that she had done such a good job she was being given additional responsibility and more money. That approach helped the woman feel good about this new opportunity, and now she this thriving in her new position.