Date published: December 1, 2012
Jennifer Mundl was 17 when a gymnastics accident resulted in a severe spinal cord injury that left her a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic. Despite a lengthy hospitalization and recovery, she completed her bachelor's and master's degrees and went on to help develop the assistive technology practice at Minnesota-based Courage Center. She now joins the ranks of Aron Ralston, Senator Bob Dole, Chris Waddell and J. R. Martinez as a Shining Star of Perseverance Honoree.
Mundl earned the distinction, awarded by Assurant Employee Benefits, because of the fortitude and determination she has demonstrated since her 1982 accident.
"There are no disabilities, but rather varying abilities," Mundl said. "I have always looked beyond a disability and focused on what a person can do. Everyone is unique and everyone is a gift. Through creativity and knowledge we all can impact the world today."
Now in its ninth year, the Shining Star of Perseverance award was developed to recognize the challenges that come with disability.
"Shining Star is a reflection of Assurant Employee Benefit's commitment to help those facing disabilities continue leading productive, meaningful lives," Assurant Employee Benefits president and CEO John Roberts said.
"Mundl exemplifies a true Shining Star. Thanks to her unwavering perseverance, she has overcome countless obstacles and continues to inspire those she interacts with every day. We can all learn from her example."
The national unemployment rate in August for those with disabilities was 16.1 percent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In that same period, the labor force included 21 percent of people with disabilities as compared to 69.9 percent without disabilities.
Though disabled workers represent a highly skilled talent pool that can help employers compete in today's global economy, employment barriers still exist and must be addressed, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy.
In various industry studies, more than 90 percent of individuals out on disability indicated they would return to work if they could.
Assurant Employee Benefits developed its return-to -work program, a critical part of its disability business, to provide the support that customers and their employers need to get back to work and to life after injury or illness.
"It takes a village for anyone with or without a disability," Mundl said. "We all have our personal issues, mine was med ical, but other employees have life events - like divorce, child illness, injuries, - that impair their capability to work. It is about what we do with our life and how we react to roadblocks in front of us."
In addition to the award, designed by Donna Smith of Colchester, Conn., herself a quadriplegic, Roberts presented a donation to Jennifer's employer, Courage Center.
To watch a video about Jennifer http://youtu, be/p6_E6lqbsDg.