Joyce Bender receives the Secretary of Labor's 2003 New Freedom Initiative AwardIn 1995, Joyce A. Bender, a successful entrepreneur with epilepsy and hearing loss, incorporated Bender Consulting Services, Inc. in order to move Americans with disabilities, including minorities with disabilities, into full-time competitive career opportunities. Bender Consulting is a technology consulting company that provides assistive technology services to its customers, and training on employment of people with disabilities to corporations and government agencies.

Bender Consulting submits qualified candidates with disabilities to a customer with an identified full-time position. When approved by the customer after the interview process, Bender hires the candidate as a consultant. Prior to beginning the assignment with the customer, the consultant goes through a Career Reality Training Program, which covers a range of topics including work ethics, assertiveness and accountability. Bender Consulting provides all necessary accommodations and assistive technology solutions. After 6-9 months on the job, following a positive performance review, the Bender consultant becomes a direct employee of the customer. Bender Consulting monitors progress and supports the consultant to ensure retention and career growth.

Ms. Bender set up her company to be a model employer. Therefore, Bender Consulting Services provides the following benefits to its employees:

Competitive wages.

100% premium paid benefits for employee and family including health, dental, short-term disability, long-term disability, life insurance, and a 401(k) package with matching contribution.

Training and employee development (e.g., leadership training program). Five employees with disabilities have completed the leadership training program and are serving in leadership positions within the Bender organization.

More than 100 people with disabilities have been employed in a range of professional fields including computer programming, project office support, technical writing, network support, help-desk administration and finance. Over 95 percent of the consultants were hired by Bender Consulting Services' customers, which include Bayer Corporation, Highmark, Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, Alcoa, FedEx Ground, the Federal Government and Mellon Financial.

Ms. Bender speaks nationally to employers to educate them on the business benefits to hiring people with disabilities. She also participates in many state and national disability initiatives. Ms. Bender's demonstrated success and enthusiasm have inspired other business leaders to hire people with disabilities.