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Lafayette Awarded for Disability Awareness

Dec 18, 2018 07:49AM ● By Press Release

The Mayor-President’s Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities (ACCD) recently recognized community members who improve the lives of those living with disabilities. Honorees were celebrated at the 11th Annual Awards Ceremony. Following the local event, the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs presented the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) Awards at the Old State Capitol Building with several honorees from the Lafayette area.

Local ACCD Award Winners

This year, eight awards were given in various categories:

·       Nicole Poiencot – Vickie Nettles Advocacy Award, for selfless acts, going above and beyond to be a voice and advocate through her work with Louisiana Rehab Services for the disabled and the determination to make this world and our community a better place for all of those living with disabilities.

·       Louisiana Rehab Services – Distinguished Merit, for extraordinary service in working to advance opportunities for persons with disabilities so they may achieve full participation in society, despite a fluctuating budget.

·       Hilary Ragan – Educator of the Year, for her significant contributions in educating persons with disabilities in our community, particularly at Lafayette’s STEM Academy.

·       Michaels Arts and Crafts – Employer of the Year, for providing the opportunity of dignified work, offering long-lasting career and advancement opportunities, boosting confidence, and providing stable income to individuals with disabilities.

·       The Melara Family – Family of the Year, in recognition of involvement and fund raising efforts in the community and for serving as an example of courage, strength and unity for other families living with disabilities.

·       Robert Martin Whatley – Outstanding Individual with a Disability, for his exemplary legacy of care working with Louisiana Rehab Services and his never ending need to better the lives of all his clients.

·       Taylor Trache – Media of the Year, for her excellent work on a series of stories on disability awareness efforts at the local and state level.

·       Claire Carriere – Volunteer of the Year, for her work with the UL Beacon Club, which she personally revived in order to bring inclusion and acceptance to the forefront for UL students with disabilities.

During the ACCD Awards Ceremony Mayor-President Joel Robideaux stated, “We are blessed to have so many inspiring people working tirelessly to enhance the lives of our neighbors living with disabilities. With this committee serving in an advisory capacity to consolidated government, Lafayette Parish is much better equipped to address the needs and rights of those living with disabilities.” See photos from the 2018 ACCD Awards.

Jamar Ennis of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs was also in attendance at the Lafayette event and later announced that Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux was named the recipient of the 2018 Elected Official of the Year GOLD award. Other local GOLD award winners include Harlon Cowsar II receiving the Ken Vince Memorial Award for advocacy, Barry Guidry for Veteran of the Year, and the Hand Up Thrift Store for Employer of the Year.

The GOLD Awards were presented by Governor John Bel Edwards in a ceremony that took place on November 28 in the Old State Capitol Building. Of the 14 awards, four were awarded to citizens of the Lafayette community.

·       Harlon Cowsar II – Ken Vince Memorial Award, for his work at the local non-profit Families Helping Families, as well as working to make Lafayette’s public transportation route more accessible to the disabled community.

·       Hand Up Thrift – Employer of the Year, for providing integrated competitive employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

·       Barry Guidry – Veteran of the Year, for his work as a mentor for other veterans as well as his advocacy in the community for the disabled.

·       Mayor-President Joel Robideaux – Elected Official of the Year, for creating Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Office of Disability Affairs and his continued efforts to create legislation that serves Lafayette’s disabled community.

In his opening address, Governor Edwards praised the award winners on their inspirational work and pledged to continue to make Louisiana more accessible to individuals with disabilities. He spoke optimistically about funds for such projects becoming available as Louisiana’s economy continues to improve.

Award recipients for both the local ACCD Awards and the statewide GOLD awards were nominated through an open submission process and were ultimately chosen for their outstanding work. The honorees’ families, friends, colleagues and those who nominated them attended the events to celebrate the recipients and their contributions in bettering the lives of the disabled community.

For more information on the ACCD, visit and