Florida businesses honored for hiring disabled workers

By Jake Stofan - Tallahassee corespondent
News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - October is National Disability Employment Awareness month and Florida businesses that have shown strong commitments to hiring people with disabilities were honored Thursday morning in Tallahassee.

Florida’s economy is booming.

“Private sector businesses including many of those that are here today have created over 1.6 million new jobs,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

A stronger economy means more opportunities for all Floridians, including those with disabilities.

“I know it's important for grownups to work and earn money. I am grateful to have this job,” said Connor Yeatts, who works at Cayer Behavioral Group. Yeatts has Williams Syndrome.

This year, 12 Florida businesses were given awards by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Blind Services and Vocational Rehabilitation.

“Getting people employed and getting them self-sufficient is one of the best things we can do,” said Barbara Palmer, director of the Florida Agency for Persons With Disabilities. 

Most employers of those with special needs benefit just as much as the employees.

Award winner Kiersten Lee runs Paisley Cafe in Tallahassee. She said hiring Kevin Graham, who has autism, has changed her life forever. It inspired her, with the help of Graham, to create the Autism Cooks Foundation.

“It's been amazing. It helps people to cook. It helps them to find jobs like me,” said Graham.

It’s an example of how creating an opportunity for one can lead to many more.

“Kevin is able to be an example and a leader in the community for disabilities in the workplace,” said Lee.

Those honored at the ceremony said more than anything, they hope the example they set will inspire other businesses to hire persons with disabilities.

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