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 PIGEON FORGE, Tenn., Sept. 2 /PRNewswire/ -- This week, the Dollywood entertainment park has been recognized by two state organizations for the company's outstanding commitment and service to people with disabilities.
 The first award, which was presented to Dollywood in Memphis on Saturday, Aug. 28, is in recognition of the way the park serves its visitors with disabilities. The "Special Recognition Award" is being given by People First of Tennessee, Inc., the state affiliate of an international organization founded in 1981 run by and for people with disabilities. One such recognition award has been given each year since 1984 at the People First of Tennessee state conference to a company, individual or organization for outstanding service to people with disabilities.
 Sandra Reagle, self-advocacy coordinator for the 17 People First of Tennessee chapters in East Tennessee from Bristol to Chattanooga, and Dr. Ruthie Beckwith, the organization's state director, explained that Dollywood was chose for the award for several reasons.
 "Dollywood provides accommodations and access to almost every part of the park, its shows, rides and restaurants for persons with disabilities. In addition, the employees throughout the park are very accommodating, understanding and helpful to persons with disabilities. And Dollywood exhibits outstanding hiring policies and practices for people with disabilities," Reagle and Beckwith said.
 Reagle added: "It is rare that people with disabilities can travel or visit public attractions without some kind of inconvenience or embarrassment, but this is not the case at Dollywood. I hope this is a constant and permanent policy (of Dollywood), and I look forward to returning many times with friends, family and many other people."
 Dollywood was chosen for the award from nominations received from People First of Tennessee's 41 chapters statewide. Several hundred of the organization's 1,060 members statewide were on hand at the state conference Aug. 28-29 at Memphis' Wilson World Hotel.
 On Aug. 31 at noon, the second award was presented by the Volunteer State Rehabilitation Association (VSRA) (an affiliate chapter of the National Rehabilitation Association) to Dollywood as its "Employer of the Year Award" for the Pigeon Forge company's "outstanding commitment and belief in the accomplishments and abilities of persons with disabilities."
 Martha Britton, vocational rehabilitation counselor for the State of Tennessee, nominated Dollywood for this award because of the company's commitment to hiring individuals with disabilities.
 "The acceptance and willingness of Dollywood to hire workers with disabilities should be a model for all employers," Britton said. "Dollywood's employment philosophy is, `if a person wants to work and can do the job, he or she can be hired.' Qualified individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply for work at Dollywood."
 Based on the State of Tennessee's rehabilitation statistics, Britton learned that approximately 100 of Dollywood's employees have disabilities -- ranging from mobility and hearing impairment to developmental disabilities. Britton also cited the entertainment company's commitment to providing work adjustment opportunities for a number of vocational rehabilitation clients through Goodwill Industries and the Douglas Adult Cooperative in Sevierville, Tenn.
 Bill Peterson, Dollywood personnel manager, and several Dollywood employees were on hand to receive this prestigious honor in Nashville at the Awards Luncheon of VSRA's annual Training Conference and Exhibit Show at Nashville's Doubletree Hotel. The Volunteer State Rehabilitation Association has over 300 members throughout Tennessee. The volunteer organization's mission is to advocate for individuals with mental or physical disabilities and to enhance training opportunities for professionals that work primarily with people with disabilities.
 Mike Hutcherson, Dollywood general manager, expressed his appreciation to both groups for recognizing the entertainment park. "We are both pleased and honored to be chosen for two such prestigious awards, and are especially proud to be recognized for our service to both our employees and our guests. Dollywood strives to be a good employer to all of our hosts, as well as continually working to create memories worth repeating for each guest that visits our park. It is our policy to treat all employees and guests with the utmost dignity, courtesy and respect."
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 /CONTACT: Ellen Long, Publicity Office, Dollywood, 615-428-9486/

CO: Dollywood ST: Tennessee IN: ENT LEI SU:

CM-SB -- CH001 -- 8251 09/02/93 08:36 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Sep 2, 1993

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