Two named models of excellence for people with disabilities

Twana Carr has never viewed herself as someone who empowers others.

Twana Carr and Janice Allen were honored recently by the Birmingham Area Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities as the Large Business Employee of the Year and Professional of the Year.
She believes in hard work, smiles when she communicates with others and displays a pleasant attitude in her position as mail clerk in UAB Hospital. Her deafness neither defines her, nor is it a crutch. Now, Carr is being recognized as a model of employee excellence to others with disabilities.

The Birmingham Area Governor's Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities recently named Carr the Large Business Employee of the Year. The award is given annually to an Alabamian with a disability for outstanding achievement in overcoming significant limitations to secure and maintain gainful employment.

"I was shocked to be nominated and equally shocked to win," Carr says. "It's hard for me to believe, but I hope this is something that can be viewed positively in the deaf community. I feel like I'm representing them, and this may give people more opportunities to hire deaf people."

Janice Allen, food services manager with Food and Nutrition Services at UAB Hospital, was nominated and selected as Professional of the Year, which is given to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions toward promoting self-advocacy and employment and to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Carr and Allen were nominated by Sherri Moultrie, coordinator of the Human Resources Disability Representative and Retaining a Valued Employee Program (RAVE).

"I'm honored to nominate Twana and Janice for these awards," Moultrie says. "Twana has displayed outstanding performance, exemplary work ethic, commitment to self-advocacy efforts, perseverance and a good attitude. I've had the opportunity to work with Ms. Allen on many occasions and can attest to her extraordinary contributions."

Positive attitude
Carr, who has worked as a mail clerk in the hospital for more than nine years, makes it a point to interact with others as much as possible on a daily basis. Her primary form of communication is sign language, but that doesn't deter her from approaching fellow employees and patients or family members if they need help.

"Sometimes people have come up to me who are afraid to communicate," Carr says. "I carry paper and pens and pencils with me; it's how I communicate with those who hear. I just let them know that they don't need to be afraid. I'm here for them if they need any help."

Co-workers often speak of Carr's positive attitude and outlook as one of her greatest strengths. Carr says she's not sure where she gets that mind-set. 

"I guess that's just me, just who I am," she says. "I like to work hard. I like to learn as much as I can. I would just like to be a positive example."

Carr is responsible for delivering and picking up mail throughout the hospital. Her responsibilities include pre-sorting mail by route, storing it in mailroom shelves and metering outgoing mail for post office delivery. All her evaluations have been exemplary.

"Twana's successful employment reminds us that individuals with disabilities make significant contributions to organizations and bring welcome diversity to the workplace," Moultrie says.

Carr says one of the reasons she is able to flourish in her job is the support provided by her supervisors and co-workers.

"I've always been encouraged to do my job well," she says. "They've always given me praise and told me what a hard worker and how motivated I am. That keeps me going. It makes me keep wanting to do it."

Award for the group
Allen is responsible for the largest hospital kitchen in Alabama, which prepares meals for more than 1,000 patients daily. She has been instrumental in helping students make culinary arts a career choice and also has exposed students with disabilities to various entry-level positions within Food and Nutrition Services. She facilitates kitchen tours for those with disabilities and assists them in exploring potential opportunities.

"I'm very appreciative of the award, but I don't consider it my award," Allen says. "It's the department's award. I place them into a position, but it is the supervisors and employees who make it happen by working closely with the individual to help them reach their potential and achieve success."

Allen has worked closely with Moultrie to find jobs for those with disabilities, particularly slow learners.

"I've contacted Ms. Allen often, and she always takes the time to see how she can assist the RAVE Program," Moultrie says. "It is a pleasure to work with and have access to a manager who truly believes in fostering a disability-friendly workplace."
Allen says when the right fit emerges, it's a joy to watch the new employees flourish.
"They just appreciate being given the chance to show what they can do," Allen says. "And their families are so supportive. They appreciate so much that their child is being given a chance to work."