Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities Awards Recipients and Inclusive Art Contest Winners Announced

The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs will host the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) Awards and recognize the Inclusive Arts Contest winners on November 15, 2017. The GOLD Awards recognizes extraordinary individuals and organizations who have contributed their time and talents to benefit the lives of persons with disabilities in Louisiana.


The recipients for the 2017 GOLD Awards are:

Distinguished Merit  Ashley McReynolds   Baton Rouge
Patsy Barrett Memorial   Jane Rhea Vernier  New Orleans
Ken Vince Memorial   Jay Isch  Scott
Educator of the Year   Julie Bourgeois Thibodeaux
Youth of the Year Lillian Dejean  Lafayette
Family of the Year  The Pierce Family  Larose
Volunteer of the Year  Trach Mommas of Louisiana  
Employer of the Year University Medical Center New Orleans
Provider of the Year   Terrebonne ARC   Houma
Direct Support Prof of Year Latasha Walker  Bossier City
Veterans of the Year Kenneth Carmouche Lafayette
Service Animal of the Year Bella (Arc of Caddo-Bossier) Shreveport
Elected Official of the Year Rep. Patricia Smith Baton Rouge
Public Servant of the Year  Mark Thomas    Baton Rouge


The winners of the 2017 Inclusive Arts Contest are:                       

Elementary Division 1    

1st       Kaylee Cook

2nd       Shyloh Bell

3rd       Emily Grimmett



Port Barre 

Elementary Division 2  

1st       Blair Young

2nd       Maci Leger

3rd       Zavier Simon 

Port Barre   

Port Barre


High School  

1st        Hailey Enamorado 

2nd       Aurian Hanna             

3rd        Trey Cunrod  

Denham Springs




1st       Dana Territo                       

2nd (tie)  Marcus Kilgore         

2nd (tie)  Jerome Puyau          

Baton Rouge   




Employment Roundtables


Gov. John Bel Edwards proclaimed October as “Disability Employment Awareness Month” in Louisiana. During October the Governor’s Office of Disability affairs traveled to 10 cities across the state on an Employment First Tour in collaboration with the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Families Helping Families. The roundtables had representation from Louisiana Rehabilitative Services, Louisiana Workforce Commission, Human Service Districts/Authorities, local school districts, support coordinators, supported employment providers, businesses, economic development agencies, self-advocates and other interested parties.

The attendants were able to connect and network with others and give feedback on their successes, concerns, best practices and what is needed regarding employment for individuals with disabilities.  During the roundtable discussions, participants talked about information parents and students need to receive to start preparing individuals for employment, navigating available resources, educating employers, and collaborating with agencies, businesses, and other interested parties to create more job and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

“Employing people with disabilities is an economic development issue,” Bambi Polotzola, Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs said. “The lack of workforce participation by individuals with disabilities is an untapped labor market.  We can and we will do better. We are working collaboratively across government agencies and with businesses throughout the state to improve employment opportunities and outcomes.”

Louisiana selected as a Vision Quest State

Due to the efforts of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs over the past year in collaboration with diverse and varied stakeholders, Louisiana has been selected to receive Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) as a Vision Quest (VQ) State for the 2018 fiscal year under the United States Department of Labor’s, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP). Vision Quest States are eligible to receive up to 100 hours of technical assistance to support the state in achieving its goals as an EFSLMP state. Louisiana will participate in the School-to-Work Transition and WIOA Implementation working group. ODEP will assist Louisiana in achieving results that will positively impact the lives of the individuals that you serve through your state’s service delivery systems. Since its inception in FY 2012, the EFSLMP has provided intensive onsite and virtual technical assistance to cross-system state government teams to further their efforts to increase competitive, integrated employment outcomes for all individuals with disabilities.  To learn more about EFSLMP, watch this brief video.


Public Service Announcement regarding Accessible Parking

The Lafayette Consolidated Government Mayor-President’s Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities partnered with other organizations to produce a public service announcement reminding drivers that observing accessible parking signs is not just the law, but it is also the right thing to do.

Proximity to a building’s entrance, space for loading and unloading wheelchair equipment and weather all play a significant factor in the ability for citizens in wheelchairs to move in and out of a vehicle. The 30 second video titled “Think Before You Park,” depicts two adolescents during their daily routine; “Madison” uses a wheelchair and “Jacob” does not. As the narrator states, it takes Madison an exponentially longer time to accomplish everyday tasks, especially getting in and out of the car, because she uses a wheelchair. The video shows Jacob’s mother illegally parking in an accessible spot saying, “We’re just going to be a minute.” The viewers then see another driver honking because Madison and her mom are forced to block the lane in order to unload due to an illegally parked vehicle in the accessible space. The message is, “When you park in an accessible spot, you’re making steps for those who can’t walk. Think before you park.” View thePublic Service Announcement