Joyce Bender presents the 2003 Coelho Award to Kenneth MelaniPITTSBURGH, PA- On Thursday, December 11, 2003, Bender Consulting Services, Inc. (Bender Consulting ), a Pittsburgh-based technology consulting firm, presented the Third-Annual Tony Coelho Award to Dr. Kenneth Melani, President and CEO of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

The award was named after the Honorable Tony Coelho, author of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush. Mr. Coelho believes people with disabilities add value to business, and corporate America should hire and promote the hiring of people with disabilities in its regular business practices. This award, conceived of by Joyce Bender, President and CEO of Bender Consulting , honors a business executive or government leader who has both hired people with disabilities, as well as influenced others to hire people with disabilities.

Highmark and Bender Consulting have had a long-standing business relationship since 1995, which has led to competitive employment for many Americans with disabilities. Dr. Melani, who became the insurers CEO in September of 2002, has carried on the tradition set by his predecessor John S. Brouse, to hire people with disabilities. Highmark has had the philosophy that it is a good business decision to hire people with disabilities, and has exemplified this philosophy on an on-going basis. "As a result of Dr. Melani's leadership, Highmark has set the "high mark" for other companies, in the area of competitive employment of people with disabilities.", said Joyce Bender. "Dr. Melani is a great leader, who is committed to including all people of ability, in Highmark's workforce. If it were not for Highmark, there would not be a Bender Consulting today."

In addition to leading Bender Consulting , Joyce is also the President and CEO of Bender Consulting ' "sister company" Bender Consulting Services of Canada, Inc. (Bender Consulting C). Joyce has epilepsy and a hearing loss. In 1985, she had a life-threatening accident due to epilepsy, which caused an intracranial hemorrhage that required subsequent brain surgery. Against all odds, Joyce recovered from this accident that left her with a 60 percent hearing loss in one ear and a realization that she had epilepsy. As a result of her personal experience, she developed a passion for helping people with disabilities, and founded Bender Consulting , in September 1995.