Press Release
December 15, 2020

Utah Employers Recognized for Commitment to Individuals with Disabilities and Veterans in the Workplace
12 Golden Key Award recipients honored at virtual event

SALT LAKE CITY (Dec. 15, 2020) — Twelve local businesses, agencies and advocates received Golden Key Awards today for exceeding standards in recruiting, hiring and retaining practices for individuals with disabilities and veterans. The Utah Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and Department of Workforce Services’ Utah State Office of Rehabilitation presented the awards during a virtual Disability:IN Utah event.

The event featured keynote speaker Stephani Victor, a five-time Paralympic medalist, actress and film director. Victor praised today’s winners for their commitment to inclusivity: “COVID hit and here we are, trying to still connect and recognize the great efforts of providing employment first of all in a time where millions of people are losing their jobs and specifically for including people with disabilities. …When you adapt and when you collectively adapt together you build resilience; you build a community that is just and kind.” 

Every year award recipients are nominated by their peers, employees and community partners for making the commitment to support people with disabilities and veterans through employment, including recruitment, training and workplace accommodations.

“This year’s award recipients exemplify what it means to go above and beyond to promote equal employment opportunities for Utahns with disabilities and veterans,” said Leah Lobato, director of the Utah Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities. “They have made invaluable contributions to individuals, communities and the entire state by changing public perceptions through inclusive business practices.”

Avian Sanctuary and Protection was given the Small Business of the Year Award for its exceptional acceptance and compassion for those with disabilities. While a majority of its employees and volunteers have a disability, all staff members work side by side to gain valuable work experience rescuing and rehabilitating birds.

The Medium Business of the Year Award was presented to Wilson Electronics for its proactive approach in seeking out and hiring people with disabilities. They have connected with community partners to hire and accommodate individuals with disabilities, including some with severe cognitive disabilities.

Brian Head Resort accepted the Large Business of the Year Award for its remarkable willingness and flexibility to partner with Southwest Behavioral Health Center (SBHC) to hire employees with mental illness and co-occurring substance use/misuse disorders.

Le Bus received the Freedom Award for its commitment to exceed expectations for accommodations for its employees with disabilities, including disabled veterans. The owners foster unity and courtesy to all employees and don’t differentiate between those with disabilities and those without.

The Ace Business Award was presented to Rock Exotica for promoting inclusivity in their workforce, specifically by hiring and accommodating blind and visually impaired employees. They continue to provide customized support for their employees to succeed.

Laura and Matt Perry, owners of Sips Coffee Company, accepted the Ace Citizen Award for their outstanding inclusion of employees with disabilities, including their son who has Down Syndrome. They have created an open and accepting atmosphere in the community while providing necessary accommodations for disabled employees to excel at work.

Timothy Brown was given the Ace Advocate Award for his notable work mentoring others with disabilities through the hiring process at Sorenson BioScience. Brown guides those with disabilities in their work and collaborates with others to make the best placements for new hires.

The ASAP Award was presented to the Utah Unemployment Insurance Division for their excellent utilization of the Alternative State Application Program (ASAP). They regularly recruit and hire employees with disabilities to join Utah’s unemployment insurance team in assisting both employers and individuals seeking benefits.

Dee Collett, job coach at Innovative Harbor in Vernal, received the Community Partner Provider Award for her passion and advocacy for hiring people with disabilities. Through her unwavering dedication, Collett has helped numerous disabled Utahns find the right work.

The Counselor Provider Award was given to Emilee Evans, an employment specialist at SBHC in St. George, for her continued support for Utahns with mental illnesses and co-occurring substance use/misuse disorders. As someone with similar lived experience, Evans has provided hope and meaningful employment to hundreds of individuals.

Michael Bingham, founder of Jump the Moon Foundation, accepted the Educator Provider Award for extending an open door at his art studio to individuals with disabilities. The foundation allows those with disabilities to create and explore art for free and offers positions for them to work.

Michael Cain, retiring director of SBHC, received the Service and Influence Award for his strong advocacy of integrating work as part of addiction and mental illness recovery. His passion has helped many people with disabilities find the right employment as part of their clinical treatment plans.

For more information about Disability:IN Utah and the Golden Key Awards, visit