The Oklahoma State Senate has been named “Employer of the Year” by Oklahoma City’s Mayor’s Committee on Disability Concerns. President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman accepted the honor on behalf of the Senate, and was joined by former Senate intern, Hailey Mathis. The OU political science student was paralyzed in the May 3, 1999 tornado, but continues to live life to the fullest, completing an internship with the State Senate during the 2011 session.
Hailey is one of several people with disabilities who have worked for the State Senate, including former Miss Wheelchair America, Cinda Hughes, and long-time Senate staffer, Charles Israel who suffered from Muscular Dystrophy but continued to work as Senate webmaster until his death in 2010.
Pam Henry a former Oklahoma City newswoman and member of the Journalism Hall of Fame, is chair of the Oklahoma City Mayor’s Committee on Disability Concerns.
“We chose the Senate for Employer of the Year because of Hailey and other outstanding people with disabilities who were hired into wonderful, productive and visible jobs,” said Henry. “It does a world of good, not only for the people they hire, but people with disabilities all over the state of Oklahoma.”
Hailey, who hopes to become an advocate for the disabled, said her internship gave her a behind the scenes view of state government as well as first-hand experience working with legislators. When talking about her disability during the session, Hailey said, “The only real limits are the ones you put on yourself.”
Pro Tem Bingman said Hailey and other individuals like her were important assets to the Senate.
“Hailey’s story and the stories of so many other remarkable people who have disabilities are simply inspirational,” Bingman said. “We probably learned more from Hailey than she did from us. Her can-do, positive attitude is something that each of us should aspire to every single day.”