PIERRE — The South Dakota awards for disability employment handed out Monday by Gov. Dennis Daugaard in the Capitol’s rotunda came with good stories.
The governor, whose parents were born deaf, told of people with disabilities who are successful in their jobs and their professions. And he spoke about business owners and disability-services professionals whose efforts make for better workplaces and opportunities.
He also drew on his experiences, including lessons from his parents, who taught their children the importance of getting to the job 15 minutes early and staying 15 minutes late.
“Work provides a great sense of self-worth,” Daugaard told the small gathering who came to honor co-workers and friends receiving the awards.
People with disabilities often have a strong work ethic and strong character because of what they face in life, he said, and they tend to be loyal and stay in their jobs for long times.
Daugaard said they often are the best workers an employer has.
Earlier this year, the governor appointed a task force on employment of people with disabilities. He wants state government to emphasize hiring people with disabilities.
At a time when South Dakota’s 3.9 percent unemployment is second-lowest in the nation, employers struggling to hire workers should look more to people with disabilities as a solution and recognize their abilities, Daugaard said.
“We need everyone; those with disabilities as well as those without disabilities,” he said.
The stories of the 2013 awards recipients covered the breadth of South Dakota.
Daniel Hammett, of Box Elder, despite cerebral palsy, works as a park guide at Mount Rushmore National Memorial. He once returned $8,000 to the Social Security Administration.
“He suggested they give it to someone who needed it,” Daugaard said. “I don’t know if I’d have returned $8,000. That’s impressive.”
Hammett received the 2013 award for outstanding employee with a disability.
Lori Kober, of Vermillion, is the nation’s only deaf woman who is owner and director of a funeral home. She’s also been the deputy coroner for Clay County.
“Her unique skills, abilities and love for people have helped her excel,” Daugaard said.
Kober received the award for outstanding citizen with a disability.
Anita and Randy Hall, of Sioux Falls, are managers of KFC/A&W restaurants for DeeJay’s QSR Inc. They received the award for outstanding private employer in the small-business category.
The governor said they work with the Sioux Falls school district’s Project Skills vocational rehabilitation program. He said they’ve found “a diverse team makes for better problem solving, serving all customers more effectively and creating a richer culture for all to enjoy.”
Daugaard said they appreciate the assistance of job coaches and job developers, use online training modules for employees and have step-by-step instructions throughout the workplace that use pictures and symbols for job tasks.
They provide information and support to other managers in the region for getting started in hiring and keeping quality employees with disabilities. Daugaard said they attended a school meeting to help a student who wanted more work hours and responsibilities and now puts in 35 hours per week.