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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 9:41 am | Fair 53º

 
 
 
 

Noozhawk Earns Santa Barbara Mayor’s Award for Its Coverage of Disability Issues

Annual honors also bestowed on airport director Karen Ramsdell, Marshalls and Trader Joe's

Kristina Rice benefits from more than a paycheck while working for UCSB Dining Services, she earns respect.

“If I forget a step, (my supervisor) Robbie (Wright) reminds me I need to train with them in all the steps of the task,” said Rice, a Devereux graduate who has worked at UCSB for the past 12 years with the assistance of supported employment services.

“Robbie wants us to work as a team. She treats us all equal and I feel very respected at work.”

Respect and equal treatment had been hard to come by at past jobs, said Rice, who teamed up with Sue Hawkins, director of UCSB’s University Center Dining Services, as the keynote speakers at the Seventh Annual Mayor’s Awards on Wednesday morning.

The breakfast ceremony, hosted by Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider at the Cabrillo Pavilion Arts Center, coincides with National Disability Employment Awareness Month. The event recognizes area businesses that help provide employment for people with disabilities.

For her part, Hawkins recalled the apprehension she felt when she first volunteered in a special-needs class in high school. She said she quickly realized her fear was unfounded.

“The only cure for fear is diversity, and that is something we can control and accommodate in the workplace,” Hawkins told about 100 guests at the ceremony. “For employers providing work for those with differing needs, it can be enriching and rewarding.”

PathPoint has helped Hawkins hire employees with special needs since she started working at UCSB more than 19 years ago.

“First, (I wanted to) provide meaningful employment with those of limited abilities, and, second, I could provide a learning experience for our young students,” Hawkins said. “Being careful of those who are different can be immobilizing and prejudicial. If you look at our world you can see it in a much larger context.”

Hiring those with disabilities is a win-win, Schneider said. Through the state Department of Rehabilitation, a company could receive more than $31,000 for each new hire, she said, adding that more than half of workplace accommodations cost nothing but result in improved retention and productivity.

“People always talk about getting government and businesses to work together,” Schneider said. “This is one small way of showing positive reinforcement on how to be inclusive and recognize businesses that do what they can to employ those with disabilities.”

» Marshalls, a newcomer to downtown Santa Barbara, earned the Employment/Accommodation Award by reflecting the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act in its employment practices.

» Santa Barbara Airport director Karen Ramsdell accepted the Design/Accessibility Award for her leadership in creating equal and aesthetic access for travelers with disabilities at the newly renovated terminal.

» Nakia Rhodes, team captain at Trader Joe’s, 3025 De la Vina St., accepted the Outstanding Effort Award for recognizing people with disabilities as valued community members.

» Noozhawk business reporter Alex Kacik accepted the Media Award for the news Web site’s ongoing recognition of the importance of equality and dignity while reporting on disability issues. Noozhawk was a previous recipient of the award, in 2008.

“It’s great to acknowledge businesses that go out of their way and don’t take what may be perceived as the easy way out and be as inclusive as possible,” Schneider said. “It benefits the community as a whole.”

Among the dignitaries in attendance were Santa Barbara City Councilman Grant House, Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell, Santa Barbara County 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf and Sharon Siegel, district representative for Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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