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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
April 18, 2005
Volume 40, Number 9

Managers improve campus climate for disabled


By Laurie Mellas Ramirez

Parking and Transportation Services Director Clovis Acosta receives congratulations from officer Tim Garcia during the DAG award ceremony at the SUB. Photo by Greg Johnston.

UNM Parking Services Director Clovis Acosta and Center for Development and Disability Director Melody Smith are the first recipients of the Disability Advisory Group, or DAG, award. Each received a plaque and $500 during a ceremony in March at the SUB. A perpetual plaque listing annual winners will be mounted in the Human Resources Service Center.

Managers and supervisors who demonstrate a commitment to the hiring, career development and advocacy of staff with disabilities were eligible for the award, sponsored by HR’s DAG, a team of recruitment professionals and community representatives.

Smith“Of the 17 nominations received, two people – Clovis Acosta and Melody Smith – made the greatest strides. They not only affect the individual lives of their employees, but make changes that affect the culture of their department and the university as a whole,” said Susan Carkeek, associate vice president and HR director.

Acosta was noted for numerous accomplishments, including:

  • Purchasing buses with wheelchair lifts and adding accessible parking beyond ADA requirements or state guidelines.
  • Providing adaptive technology, additional training and leadership opportunities to help staff effectively perform and excel in their duties
  • Offering a sign language workshop for department employees

“Clovis has taught me to see the contributing and positive side of an individual no matter what their disabilities are,” one nominator wrote.

It was also noted that Acosta ensured an interpreter be present for all parking meetings and workshops to assist an officer who is deaf. The officer is also supplied with a two-way pager for ease in communication.

“Clovis has ensured that individuals with hidden disabilities, like mine, have their needs met without ‘special treatment,’” another nominator wrote. “At Parking and Transportation Services…everybody is treated as a special, unique individual.”

Smith was also heralded as a champion for employees with significant disabilities, cognitive as well as physical. “The initiative to look at the intellectual abilities of the disabled applicant is not found in most of the employers I have worked for. Mrs. Smith takes into account the whole individual and offers solutions to enable the disabled person a fair chance at obtaining a position,” a nominator wrote.

Smith worked with community members to develop a venue for the disabled voice. She founded a committee, which became known as the Weaving Connection, responsible for several statewide conferences celebrating the lives of people with disabilities.

Smith has worked closely with six disabled employees working at the Center for Development and Disability to ensure their jobs are rewarding and contribute to the mission and goals of the department.

“Members of the Disability Advisory Group who attended the awards ceremony were overwhelmed by the show of support by the UNM Community,” said Mimi Swanson, HR Service Center manager.

For more information about DAG, contact Kim Singleton, 277-5804.