As a growing number of museums in New York and nationally implement employment programs for people with disabilities, the Frick Collection in New York has been honored with the annual Sapolin Accessibility Award for Employment, an award annual award that rewards private and public organizations that work to improve the inclusion of people with disabilities in the world of work.
The award was presented by New York City Mayor Eric Adams to Dana Winfield, director of human resources for the Frick, during a July 26 ceremony at Gracie Mansion, which coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the enactment of the ‘Americans with Disabilities Act. The law, signed by former US President George HW Bush, prohibits discrimination against people with physical and mental disabilities.
Two neurodiverse people who are trained librarians work part-time in the museum’s art reference library; another neurodiverse person works part-time in the museum shop; and a deaf housekeeper works full time. The museum currently has over 200 full-time and part-time employees.
Winfield tells The arts journal that the Frick has strived to employ people with disabilities “as a way for the institution to give back to the community and broaden all of our horizons,” she says. “We want our employee group to reflect all of the communities we want to engage.”
The museum, which has employed people with disabilities since 2017, works with Job Path, an organization that helps people with disabilities find jobs, and AHRC NYC, a neurodiversity advocacy group. Earlier this year, he was also honored for his disability employment by the New York State Assembly.
Winfield adds that Frick’s efforts “are a bit like dropping a pebble in a puddle”, and that “very small changes that have had a positive impact on so many people”.
The award contains multiple categories and is named after Matthew Sapolin, New York’s first commissioner of the Mayor’s Office for Persons with Disabilities (MOPD). While the Frick is the first museum in New York to be honored by the MOPD for the employment category of the award, last year the Whitney Museum of American Art received its Public Service Award.
“Many arts and culture organizations contact us to meet their labor and staffing needs,” says Martha Jackson, Acting Commissioner of MOPD.
She adds, “We think they’ve understood what we’ve known for some time, which is that in hiring, disability is diversity. And most employees who identify as having a disability are responsible, dependable, trustworthy and driven to succeed. We all eventually learn that at work, it’s what we know how to do that counts.