News & Information > News Releases

October 1, 2014                                                      

CONTACT: Melanie Mowry Etters
Communication Director

Disability-Friendly Companies Honored

TALLAHASSEE, FL —Organizations that hire people with disabilities were recognized by the state of Florida today for being exceptional employers of people with disabilities. Seven businesses from around the state were honored. The annual celebration was held at Tallahassee City Hall, 300 South Adams Street, as part of recognizing October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), Blind Services, and Vocational Rehabilitation presented the Exceptional Employer Awards that honor businesses for their commitment to employing people with disabilities.

The seven award-winning businesses are:

  • 2-1-1 Broward
  • Bay Pines VA Healthcare System (St. Petersburg)
  • Citi (Jacksonville)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts (Pensacola area)
  • Gulf Coast Enterprises
  • Lee & Marie’s Cakery Company (Miami)
  • SeaWorld Orlando

APD Director Barbara Palmer said, “We are very pleased to be able to honor these deserving businesses. These organizations are including people with disabilities in their workforces. They are giving individuals opportunities to prove themselves, which is what all of us want. These business leaders now know that individuals with disabilities are some of the most dedicated employees any organization could have. These workers are totally committed to their jobs and employers.”

“DEO applauds the outstanding employers in Florida who recognize that people with disabilities are ready, willing, and able to work. The Scott Administration has promoted policies that ensure every Floridian who wants a job can get a job. Each job is a pathway to prosperity, independence, personal growth, and a chance to live the American dream,” said Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Speakers at the event included Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, Department of Economic Opportunity Director Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities David Darm, Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities President and CEO Suzanne Sewell, Sonic Drive-In employee Stacy Powell, and Publix employee Graham Glover.

Event sponsors were The Able Trust, City of Tallahassee, and RESPECT of Florida.

Here is more information on the winners:

2-1-1 Broward

2-1-1 Broward has made a longstanding commitment to employing people with disabilities. One employee has been on the job for 23 years, another 10 years, and two other employees have been there eight years each. The company has gone above and beyond to ensure they have the accommodations needed so they are able to do their jobs. 2-1-1- has worked with Blind Services to provide the JAWS screen reader, braille writers, and technical support. The company also gladly welcomes two service animals into the workplace.

Bay Pines VA Healthcare System

Bay Pines VA Health Systems is located in the Tampa Bay area. Bay Pines has made a huge commitment to hiring people with all types of disabilities, including many disabled veterans. They work to ensure that any issues are resolved so the individual can succeed in the workplace.

These individuals are working in Sterile Processing, Human Resources, Dietary, Laundry, and in individual medical clinics. The organization has more than 450 individuals with disabilities on staff.


Citi of Jacksonville has hired more than a dozen people with disabilities. Two employees have been on the payroll for more than five years. They have worked with Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Services to meet the needs of individual employees. They have provided accommodations, such as the location of work stations and enhanced training. Citi has worked to improve disability awareness and sensitivity along with employees learning more about disability issues. Employees with disabilities praise the company saying they are treated like everyone else.

Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts of the Pensacola area has 10 people with disabilities working to help make the donuts, which we all love. Several of these individuals were hired in the past year. One position was customized for an individual in conjunction with their job coach so they could be successful at work. Dunkin’ Donuts is involved in the Pensacola Business Leadership Network, which focuses on including people with disabilities in the local workforce.

Gulf Coast Enterprises

Gulf Coast Enterprises has people employed statewide, with more than 1,200 with significant disabilities. This business has a strong and deep commitment to employing people with disabilities. Gulf Coast Enterprises competes for federal contracts and has employees working on more than a dozen military locations performing a variety of tasks such as food service, mail sorting, and custodial work. These individuals are excited about coming to work and earning a paycheck. Many employees earn above minimum wage for their work and have benefits.

Lee & Marie’s Cakery Company

Lee & Marie’s Cakery Company of Miami makes a point of hiring people with disabilities, especially individuals with autism. As many as 12 people with disabilities are employed at the small bakery. Owner Andy Travaglia was touched by the challenges of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder when her friend’s child was diagnosed 20 years ago. The mission of the bakery is placed on the front window. It says “Our mission is to build profitable businesses that will create jobs and employ adults with intellectual disabilities. We help guide them on a path to greater independence, so they can achieve their highest potential and enhance their quality of life.”

SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld Orlando makes a big difference when it comes to hiring many people with all types of disabilities. SeaWorld has hired hundreds of team members with disabilities over the years and goes the extra mile to accommodate all types of needs. The organization focuses on the Team Member and their ability, not the disability, and have modified structures, installed door openers, modified training, modified jobs, adjusted schedules, and many other things to help those with disabilities achieve success.


APD supports people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, and work in their communities. The agency annually serves more than 50,000 Floridians with autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, and Prader-Willi syndrome. For more information about the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, visit or call toll-free 1 866 APD CARES (1 866 273 2273).