“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” ― Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities”
On behalf of the board, staff and entire RespectAbility team, we extend our warmest wishes and gratitude to you and your loved ones. May you get all you need and always be surrounded by love, fun, meaning and good health!
The Dickens’ quote above really sums up our experience at RespectAbility in 2020, and this annual report details our work in a year like none before it. According to the CDC, 90% of all COVID-19 related hospitalizations were people with underlying conditions. And while not all people with disabilities have comorbidities, most people with such conditions are people with disabilities. In fact, according to a recent New York Times article, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are three times more likely to die if they have COVID-19. Moreover, more than a million of the 7 million people with disabilities who had jobs have lost them. The truth is, our community has faced extraordinary losses, and they are not just financial—they include many lives lost.
However, thanks to you, we were able to help more people with disabilities than ever before. In this annual report you will find stories from some of the key members of our team, including several board members, who have shared personal accounts and critical impacts experienced this year. These include personal discussions about our work through which, thanks to your support, we have made a difference in many people’s lives:
Safe access to food
When the pandemic started, millions of people with disabilities who received SNAP (food stamps) were forced to shop in person—a huge health risk. Our team, working alongside partners, enabled 90% of all SNAP recipients to have critical supplies delivered at home. Today, 9.9 million people with disabilities in America now have safe access to food on an ongoing basis. Our hearts break every time we see the lines at food banks across our country, so we know there is still more work to be done. But millions are better off because of what you made possible. Read the story from our Vice Chair Janet LaBreck on how we did this work.
Solving a major policy error that would have cost people with disabilities health care coverage
The way the federal CARES Act package was originally designed, millions of Americans with disabilities would have lost both their health care and supports. Thankfully, because our team knew the facts and decision-makers, we were able to create partnerships, educate leaders and ensure millions of people with disabilities were able to receive the $1,200 payment without losing lifesaving supports. These economic stimulus payments reached approximately 8.5 million people with disabilities representing a total of $10.2 billion. Your investment in our work saved lives. Hear from our Board Secretary Randall Duchesneau on our policy work.
Fighting for medical care, safe surroundings and against medical rationing
Thanks to you, we were able to work with elected officials and government agencies to help ensure that hospitals did not deny people with disabilities access to COVID-19 treatments based on disabilities. More specifically, by cautioning state leaders against medical rationing and devaluing the lives of people with disabilities, five more states announced commitments to ensure equity of care. Read about how our Vice Chair Ollie Cantos’ blind triplets fought off COVID-19 and survived.
Advancing educational and economic opportunities for people with disabilities
Because you were there for us, we were able to create and distribute digital toolkits for online learning for students with disabilities. You also enabled us to expand access to employment opportunities and job training for those experiencing job losses. We are especially excited about developments in telework and entrepreneurship for people with disabilities. Hear from National Leadership Fellow Nicole Homerin on her role in this work.
Empowering people with disabilities to be viewed and valued
Thanks to you, we were able to quadruple our impact in Hollywood this year. Indeed, RespectAbility is bringing more and more authentic characters with disabilities to the screen. Our Hollywood Lab training program led to jobs for people with disabilities in the industry, and our partnerships with content creators dramatically improved and expanded inclusion of people with disabilities—both in front of and behind the camera. Read a firsthand account from Delbert Whetter, a deaf filmmaker who co-chairs this work for our Board.
Bringing together people who want to create a better future for people with disabilities
More than 10,000 people attended our #ADA30 Virtual Summit. Thousands more attended dozens of our online trainings and convenings where they gained skills, contacts and mental health supports.
Enabling people with disabilities to have a seat at decision-making tables
Across the country, we reached out to candidates for office across all parties on issues that impact employment and educational opportunities for peoplewith disabilities. Thanks to you, our National Leadership Program trained and placed talented people whowill make a difference for generations to come. Moreover, our work with faith communities provided access and inspiration during a critical time. Read an account from board member Ila Eckhoff from who met with presidential candidates on our behalf.
2020 also afforded to us the opportunity to grow our team and make RespectAbility an even more innovative, experienced and diverse organization. We made several tremendous hires on staff to expand our impact in the areas discussed above, as well as welcomed new members to our board of directors and advisers to guide our future.
We were able to achieve all this because of your support and that of others. We aren’t waiting for vaccines or an economic recovery to take our work to the next level. We know we are needed now and that, with your help, we can rise to the challenges.
Together we can create a welcoming, respectful and successful future where all people, including people with disabilities, can have a better future.
Because you have been there for us, RespectAbility continues to work collaboratively with employers, the entertainment industry, governors, policymakers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits and faith-based organizations, philanthropists and the media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities. Led by a diverse team of people with disabilities and allies, RespectAbility knows that people with disabilities and their families have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.
Mission: To fight stigmas and advance opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.
RespectAbility accomplishes its mission through a three-part strategy:
- Fighting stigmas by promoting diverse, authentic and accurate portrayals of people with disabilities.
- Advancing opportunities by identifying and promoting best practices in education, employment, civic engagement and access.
- Leadership development to strengthen a talent pipeline of people with disabilities.
Our free tools and informative resources educate stakeholders so people with disabilities can achieve the education, training, economic security that comes from employment, and good health that everyone wants, needs and deserves.
Rest assured we are on the front lines during this crisis and, with your support, will be there to continue to help. Please take the time to read the firsthand accounts of our work in what everyone is calling an “unprecedented” year.
We are happy to answer any questions. Our email addresses are listed below.
Thank you for what you have done previously. You are in great company and at the back of this report you can see our most generous donors. But we need more help. May we please count on you again now?
We need your continued support and to connect with others who can help us expand our reach. Please spread the word about RespectAbility’s work so others can support us.
Your generosity has allowed us to respond to the needs of the disability community, and during these times, we need your support more than ever. Thank you so much!
Chair Emeritus, RespectAbility
Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
P.S. Please see the financial information and testimonials below. We are rated at the top level by GuideStar and are highly effective and transparent. A year-end tax-deductible gift will strengthen the future of people with disabilities. Thank you for your giving spirit and for all you do!