A handful of local companies were among those honored at Monday’s annual Mayor’s Breakfast for their work with people with disabilities.

Santa Barbara Mayor Marty Blum, who started the event five years ago with Councilwoman Helene Schneider, spoke during the event and said it’s one of her favorite community gatherings. 

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and the event serves as an opportunity to applaud local businesses for their outreach to disadvantaged people or those with disabilities.

Local companies that received awards included Montecito retirement community Casa Dorinda, which was recognized for its employment practices for those with disabilities.

The Santa Barbara Zoo received a design award for its California Trails exhibit, honored for its accessibility. New Directions Travel was recognized for the vacations and holiday programs it provides for people with developmental disabilities, and The Daily Sound was given a media award for its coverage of disability issues.

Lighting company BEGA won an award for recognizing people with disabilities or disadvantages as valued community members.

Monday’s event was organized by the city and county of Santa Barbara, the Department of Rehabilitation, the Metropolitan Transit District, PathPoint, Tri-Counties Regional Center and UCP Work Inc.

In addition to Blum, other city officials at the breakfast included Schneider, City Councilman Grant House, 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf and Goleta Mayor Roger Aceves.

“The best part is being mayor of a wonderful town where all of these stories are taking place,” Blum said. “We have an outstanding community here, and that includes people with disabilities.”

Blum started the event with a few statistics. On a local scale, 10 percent of working-age adults have a disability in the Santa Barbara region. Nationally, 92 percent of Americans view companies more favorably when they know they hire people with disabilities, she said.

The city has always made accessibility a priority, ever since the first curb cuts were installed in the 1970s, she said.

Blum introduced Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea, who spoke about his struggle with dyslexia and ADHD.

Orfalea was expelled from junior high school, and even at that young age, Orfalea’s job prospects were bleak. His principal told Orfalea’s mother, “If Paul works really hard, he might be able to lay carpet.”

Orfalea said he went to college, after which he used his restlessness to keep him productive.

“I finally figured out I wasn’t stupid because I can’t read the books other people can. … I hate that word, disability,” he said, calling it a mark of distinction.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com.

— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at lcooper@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.