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Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

In 2016, RespectAbility, in consultation with a wide-ranging group of diverse leaders, prepared a detailed report, Disability & Criminal Justice Reform: Keys to Success. The report, which was featured on the PBS Newshour, looks at how youth with disabilities get caught in the school-to-prison pipeline, what happens to people with disabilities behind bars and how people exit the criminal justice system. We offered very specific proposals for progress.

There are many dedicated reformers who are fighting hard at the federal, state and local level to reform our nation’s schools and justice system. However, some have not yet fully realized the deep degree to which the issues they are working on intersect with disability, poverty and discrimination. Based on our review of the available data, we estimate that there are more than 750,000 Americans with disabilities behind bars today.


Download the report in an accessible Word document.
Download the PowerPoint presentation in an accessible PPT.
Watch the video of our panel discussion on Capitol Hill.
Read the transcript of our panel discussion.

Leaders in the disability community and leaders in the criminal justice reform movement have much to learn from each and have great opportunities to collaborate. Below is a short list of resources, reports and organizations that touch on the critical intersection of ableism, racism and economic inequality in criminal justice.

Safety and Criminal Justice Webinars:

Government Resources:

Advocacy and Research Resources:

Philanthropic Organizations:

Model Programs:

DC/Maryland Specific Resources:

Do you know other people or organizations that should be included as a resource?

Contact our Communications Associate, Eric Ascher, at EricA@RespectAbility.org.

 

More Resources You Can Use

Los Angeles, California, June 5 – When Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez)’s son Mateo is having difficulty reading, his teacher suggests testing, saying it “could be a learning disability, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, dyslexia or could be nothing at all.”

Ultimately, Mateo, who is six, is diagnosed with ADHD in last week’s episode of The CW’s Jane the Virgin. His doctor explains that Mateo “struggles with both inattention and impulsivity” and that his “executive functions are somewhat impaired, which is why tasks are not completed and he has trouble self-regulating. It’s just harder for Mateo to focus and prioritize than other kids.”

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain disorder that is characterized by an individual’s consistent inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. While everyone experiences these symptoms at one point or another, what classifies these behaviors under ADHD is when it begins to affect normal day-to-day functioning and/or development. ADHD is typically diagnosed in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 6.4 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States – 11 percent of children ages four to 17. ADHD Predominantly Inattentive Type, also known as ADD, is a type of ADHD that does not involve hyperactivity. People with ADD may have trouble finishing tasks or following directions and might be easily distracted. But the symptoms are generally less noticeable for ADD than ADHD, and as a result many people with ADD are unfortunately overlooked. [continue reading…]

Washington, D.C., May 20 – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which aims to break the stigma surrounding mental health. Bedlam, a film that premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, breaks down this stigma while providing both important facts and relatable stories for all viewers. And this week previews of the film will be highlighted during WE RISE, a 10-day pop-up immersive experience that brings together Los Angeles’ diverse community to embolden individuals and families to find help, reach out to help others and demand systemic change in order to address the critical need for early intervention, treatment and care for mental wellbeing.

Mental asylums once were created with some good intentions but ended up leading to neglect and human warehouses. When these were closed, it shifted the care of people who are mentally ill from state governments to the federal government before shifting back to the states, which did not want control due to the cost. The result? On any given night, 350,000 mentally ill people sleep on the streets of America – 20,000 in Los Angeles alone. It is estimated that 25-50 percent of adults experiencing homelessness are chronically mentally ill. Jails and prisons have become America’s largest mental institutions.

In Bedlam, psychiatrist and filmmaker Kenneth Rosenberg takes viewers behind the scenes at a Los Angeles County Psych ER during a five-year period, unveiling disturbing realities for hundreds of thousands of homeless and the lack of care available for psychiatric patients. They often are warehoused in overcrowded jails where underequipped first responders provide the front line of care. [continue reading…]

Veterans

  • Paralyzed Veterans of America – A congressionally chartered veterans service organization founded in 1946, PVA has a unique expertise on a wide variety of issues involving the special needs of their members – veterans of the armed forces who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. They advocate for health care, research and education, employment, benefits and independence for their members.
  • American Red Cross Services to the Armed Forces – The American Red Cross offers confidential services to all veterans and their families by connecting them with local, state and national resources through our network of chapters in communities across the United States and offices on military installations worldwide.
  • Combat Stress Recovery Program – Sometimes the most painful injuries aren’t physical. Whether it’s PTSD, TBI, combat stress, or any other mental health condition, the Wounded Warrior Project is there to help you get through it. From their educational resources to their outdoor workshop, you can find a way to make a positive change in your life.
  • Disabled American Veterans – DAV is a nonprofit charity that provides a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families, helping more than 1-million veterans in positive, life-changing ways each year. Annually, the organization provides more than 600,000 rides to veterans attending medical appointments and assists veterans with well over 200,000 benefit claims. In 2018, DAV helped veterans receive more than $20 billion in earned benefits. DAV’s services are offered at no cost to all generations of veterans, their families and survivors. DAV is also a leader in connecting veterans with meaningful employment, hosting job fairs and providing resources to ensure they have the opportunity to participate in the American Dream their sacrifices have made possible.
  • The Given Limb Foundation – The Given Limb Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with amputations or diminished use of their limbs. The Foundation aims to support programs, adaptive accommodations and outreach for those who are facing or have had limb amputations or diminished use of their limbs, particularly our wounded military.
  • Make the Connection – MakeTheConnection.net is an online resource designed to connect Veterans, their family members and friends, and other supporters with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their lives.
  • Operation Homefront – Operation Homefront is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to build strong, stable and secure military families so they can thrive in the communities they have worked so hard to protect. For more than fifteen years, they have provided programs that offer: RELIEF (through Critical Financial Assistance and transitional housing programs), RESILIENCY (through permanent housing and caregiver support services) and RECURRING FAMILY SUPPORT programs and services throughout the year that help military families overcome the short-term bumps in the road so they don’t become long-term chronic problems.
  • PTSD Resources from the VA – The mission of the National Center for PTSD is to advance the clinical care and social welfare of America’s Veterans and others who have experienced trauma, or who suffer from PTSD, through research, education, and training in the science, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders.
  • U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs – Veteran Services – This website has general information about the VA, Health Benefits, PTSD, TBIs and Mental Health. It also has specific health groups – Combat Vets and Returning and OEF/OIF OND SMs.
  • The VA’s Center for Limb Loss & Mobility –The VA Center for Limb Loss and Mobility (CLiMB) is a research group focused on preserving and enhancing mobility in veterans and others with foot and leg impairments or amputations.
  • Warrior Care Network – The Wounded Warrior Project has partnered with four of the leading medical centers across the country to treat people with PTSD and TBI. Since the Warrior Care Network started, their partners have completed more than 92,000 hours of intensive outpatient and therapy sessions. And thanks to their donors, not only is the treatment you’ll receive completely free, so is the travel for you and your family.
  • Wounded Warrior Project The Wounded Warrior Project serves veterans and service members who incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound while serving in the military on or after Sept. 11, 2001. More than 52,000 servicemen and women were physically injured in recent military conflicts. 500,000 are living with invisible wounds, from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder. 320,000 are experiencing debilitating brain trauma. The Wounded Warrior Project empowers them to begin the journey to recovery.

5 Military Branch Associations for Veterans

  • Association of the US Army (AUSA) – The Association of the United States Army is a nonprofit educational and professional development association serving America’s Total Army, our Soldiers, Army civilians, and their families; our industry partners, and supporters of a strong national defense. AUSA provides a voice for the Army, supports the Soldier, and honors those who have served in order to advance the security of the nation. This page has resources for retired soldiers.
  • Air Force Association (AFA) – AFA created the Wounded Airman Program in 2011 with a focus on Airmen taking care of Airmen. The program provides life-changing assistance to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Airmen and their families. They step up to help in the times they need it most. The Wounded Airman Program supports the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program on its mission to provide personalized support and advocacy to wounded Airmen and their families.
  • Navy League – The Navy League of the United States, founded in 1902 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, is a nonprofit civilian, educational and advocacy organization that supports America’s sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. It enhances the morale of sea service personnel and their families through national and council level programs, provides a powerful voice to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our Sea Services to our nation’s defense, well-being and economic prosperity, and supports youth through programs, such as the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Junior ROTC and Young Marines, that expose young people to the values of our sea services.
  • Marine Corps League – The Marine Corps League perpetuates the traditions and spirit of ALL Marines and Navy FMF Corpsmen, who proudly wear or who have worn the eagle, globe and anchor of the Corps. The League is the only Federally Chartered Marine Corps related veterans organization in the country. Today, the League boasts a membership of more than 60,000 men and women, officer and enlisted, active duty, Reserve Marines, honorably discharged Marine Veterans, qualified Navy FMF Corpsmen and qualified Navy FMF Chaplains and is one of the few Veterans Organizations that experiences increases in its membership each year.
  • Coast Guard Foundation – The Coast Guard Foundation is a national nonprofit organization that supports the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard and their families. Founded in 1969, the Coast Guard Foundation provides education, support, and relief for the brave men and women who enforce maritime law, protect our homeland, and preserve the environment. We are an independent organization separate to the U.S. Coast Guard. As a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit, we provide vital support that the U.S. government cannot provide to Coast Guard members and their families. We are committed to serving them with high quality programs and resources that enhance their service and better prepare them for duty.

Disabled Veterans Statistics

Do you know other resources that should be included?

Contact our Communications Associate, Eric Ascher, at EricA@RespectAbility.org.

More Resources You Can Use

Los Angeles skyscrapers and skyLos Angeles, CA, May 7 – RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for people with disabilities, submitted the following public comments last week to the City of Los Angeles Workforce Development Board. The Board is in the process of finalizing their new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Year 20/2019-2020 Annual Plan. This plan will guide how the City of Los Angeles invests critical federal resources, builds new collaborations and works to empower people with barriers to employment in the year ahead.

RespectAbility’s public comments, which were jointly written by the organization’s D.C. and L.A. based staff, focused on several critical issues. First, the comments outline key data points about the size and scope of the disability community in Los Angeles. Second, the comments outlined in extensive detail about critical best practices and proven models of empowering job seekers with disabilities to successfully enter the workforce. Third, the comments cover a range of other issues including adopting disability best practices into existing programs to support the reentry population, expanding entrepreneurship opportunities, and supporting the local community through parent engagement as well as community resource fairs. Lastly, the public comments go into detail about how to leverage the incredible power of media and Hollywood to empower people with disabilities by fighting stigmas.

The working draft of the City of Los Angeles Workforce Development Board’s 2020 plan can be found on their website here. Read RespectAbility’s comments in full below. [continue reading…]

Q1: Please check all the following that apply to your organization:

TOTAL: Answered 964/Skipped 5
CA: Answered 225/Skipped 0
NY: Answered 136/Skipped 0

Answer Total CA NY
Nonprofit organization 76% 72% 79%
Foundation 18% 17% 10%
Individual donor or Donor Advised Fund 4% 3% 3%
Faith-based organization 7% 3% 10%
Corporation 6% 5% 7%
Philanthropy-serving organization 8% 8% 7%
Government or public sector 5% 5% 1%
Consultancy 7% 8% 10%
Other 7% 6% 7%

Q2: In which state do you live?

TOTAL: Answered 948/Skipped 21
CA: Answered 225/Skipped 0
NY: Answered 136/Skipped 0

(Open-ended/Data N/A)

Most of these questions are focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. We recognize that many leaders and organizations have just started their journeys on these issues. We honor your candid input, and we expect answers to many of the questions will be “no” or “don’t know.” Our intention is to take a snapshot of where philanthropy and nonprofits are at this moment and to identify what is needed or helpful to fill critical gaps in the field.

Q3: Has the leadership of your organization made a specific commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion that has been made public to management, staff, stakeholders, and the public?

TOTAL: Answered 931/Skipped 38
CA: Answered 223/ Skipped 2
NY: Answered 132/Skipped 8

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 72% 72% 72%
No 21% 22% 20%
I don’t know 7% 7% 8%

Q4: If yes, check all the diversity areas you specifically named:

TOTAL: Answered 589/Skipped 380
CA: Answered 187/Skipped 88
NY: Answered 84/Skipped 52

Answer Total CA NY
Race 93% 95% 93%
Gender 87% 87% 92%
Sexual orientation/Gender Identity 73% 74% 77%
Disability 68% 69% 68%
Ideology 39% 37% 44%
Other 20% 27% 15%

Q5: In the past 2 years, in what areas have you or your organization sought out additional learning opportunities for staff and leadership around diversity, equity and inclusion? Please check all that apply.

TOTAL: Answered 820/Skipped 149
CA: Answered 199/Skipped 26
NY: Answered 117/Skipped 19

Answer Total CA NY
Race 53% 52% 49%
LGBTQ+ 38% 41% 36%
Religion 16% 13% 15%
Gender Issues 38% 41% 30%
Sexual Harassment 41% 46% 46%
Disability 35% 38% 33%
English-language learners/Immigrants 28% 32% 29%
Ideology 11% 9% 10%
None of the above 12% 10% 15%
I don’t know 10% 8% 12%
Other 10% 12% 9%

Q6: On a scale of 1-5, where 1 means not at all diverse, and 5 means very diverse, how diverse do you believe your organization is when it comes to the following groups?

TOTAL: Answered 819/Skipped 150
CA: Answered 198/Skipped 197
NY: Answered 116/Skipped 20

Total 1
Not Diverse at All
2 3 4 5
Very Diverse
Ethnic/racial minorities 10% 19% 25% 19% 28%
LGBTQ+ community 16% 22% 27% 16% 18%
Gender 5% 11% 24% 26% 34%
People with disabilities 29% 26% 17% 9% 19%
Immigrants 25% 23% 22% 13% 18%
Age 2% 13% 27% 26% 32%
Religion 8% 18% 33% 18% 23%
Ideology 10% 25% 35% 14% 16% 
California 1
Not Diverse at All
2 3 4 5
Very Diverse
Ethnic/racial minorities 6% 13% 23% 20% 39%
LGBTQ+ community 10% 21% 27% 18% 24%
Gender 4% 11% 25% 24% 37%
People with disabilities 29% 22% 15% 10% 24%
Immigrants 19% 21% 24% 13% 23%
Age 3% 16% 26% 24% 31%
Religion 8% 17% 33% 17% 26%
Ideology 10% 24% 40% 11% 14%
New York 1
Not Diverse at All
2 3 4 5
Very Diverse
Ethnic/racial minorities 10% 21% 29% 10% 29%
LGBTQ+ community 15% 24% 25% 19% 17%
Gender 6% 9% 27% 23% 36%
People with disabilities 29% 30% 17% 9% 16%
Immigrants 21% 21% 23% 15% 20%
Age 2% 14% 20% 26% 38%
Religion 9% 15% 34% 17% 24%
Ideology 10% 27% 27% 22% 15%

Now we are going to ask you some specific questions about enabling leaders and organizations to include people with disabilities, just like anyone else.
A disability can be a physical, intellectual, sensory, or mental health or other condition that is a barrier to everyday living. Some people are born with disabilities. Others acquire them through accident, aging, illness, environmental impacts, violence, or military service.
People with disabilities are also part of other minority groups — including African Americans, immigrants and LGBTQ+ individuals. There are 6 million children with disabilities in America’s public schools. According to the CDC, fully 1 in 4 adults have a disability.

Q7: Be honest here. If you knew that someone you were going to work with had a disability, would you be…

TOTAL: Answered 737/Skipped 232
CA: Answered 181/Skipped 44
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Very excited 23% 28% 18%
Somewhat excited 44% 46% 36%
Somewhat concerned 32% 25% 45%
Very concerned 1% 1% 1%

Q8: Many organizations do not fully include people with disabilities. What do you think are the top two reasons why the inclusion of people with disabilities has not happened yet in so many organizations?

TOTAL: Answered 740/Skipped 229
CA: Answered 183/Skipped 42
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Conversations and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion are complex, difficult and can open up legal risks 11% 9% 10%
There is overt or unconscious bias about people with disabilities 36% 44% 35%
Other, more urgent concerns impact organizations 16% 12% 18%
No one specifically asked the organization to include people with disabilities and make it a priority 18% 22% 14%
The staff and leaders do not have the training, resources or contacts to make it successful 16% 11% 21%
Diversity efforts, while well-intended, can pit groups of people against each other and make minorities feel like they are tokens 4% 2% 2%

Q9: And what would be your second choice?

TOTAL: Answered 731/Skipped 238
CA: Answered 197/Skipped 46
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Conversations and actions around diversity, equity, and inclusion are complex, difficult and can open up legal risks 12% 14% 10%
There is overt or unconscious bias about people with disabilities 17% 19% 25%
Other, more urgent concerns impact organizations 21% 23% 17%
No one specifically asked the organization to include people with disabilities and make it a priority 20% 14% 27%
The staff and leaders do not have the training, resources or contacts to make it successful 24% 24% 19%
Diversity efforts, while well-intended, can pit groups of people against each other and make minorities feel like they are tokens 6% 6% 2%

Q10: What do you think is the most compelling reason to include and increase opportunities for people with disabilities?

TOTAL: Answered 743/Skipped 226
CA: Answered 185/Skipped 40
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income, achieve independence and be included, just like anyone else. 18% 17% 22%
Companies including Microsoft, JPMC, Coca-Cola and others have seen that talented people with disabilities can bring unique experiences, innovation and determination to organizations. It is time for nonprofits and philanthropy to benefit from what people with disabilities CAN do. 8% 6% 8%
Problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them. 24% 26% 20%
Only 1 in 3 people with a disability has a job. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as people without disabilities. They are disproportionally impacted by issues of school suspension and dropping out, unemployment, homelessness, abuse, incarceration and other issues. 7% 7% 4%
Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect and include people of all backgrounds. This includes people with disabilities. 44% 43% 47%

Q11: And what would be your second choice?

TOTAL: Answered 740/Skipped 229
CA: Answered 185/Skipped 40
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income, achieve independence and be included, just like anyone else. 22% 16% 27%
Companies including Microsoft, JPMC, Coca-Cola and others have seen that talented people with disabilities can bring unique experiences, innovation and determination to organizations. It is time for nonprofits and philanthropy to benefit from what people with disabilities CAN do. 13% 16% 9%
Problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them. 27% 28% 27%
Only 1 in 3 people with a disability has a job. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as people without disabilities. They are disproportionally impacted by issues of school suspension and dropping out, unemployment, homelessness, abuse, incarceration and other issues. 10% 13% 9%
Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect and include people of all backgrounds. This includes people with disabilities. 28% 28% 26%

Q12: Which one of these FACTS is most compelling that increasing inclusion of people with disabilities is important?

TOTAL: Answered 742/Skipped 227
CA: Answered 184/Slipped 41
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Studies show that 70% of people with disabilities want to work and that the majority of young people with disabilities can get jobs and careers when they are given the right opportunities and supports. 37% 39% 36%
Only 35% of working age people with disabilities has a job and the poverty rate of working-age people with disabilities is over twice that of persons without disabilities (29% compared to 13%). 10% 9% 17%
Fully 1 in 5 people have a disability. 16% 16% 15%
There are more than six million children with disabilities, including more than a million black/African American and 1.5 million LatinX students with disabilities in our schools today. 4% 4% 3%
32% of Federal prisoners, 40% of people in jail and the majority of women who are incarcerated have a disability. 3% 4% 3%
Most accommodations to include people with disabilities are simple, free or low cost. With new technology and best practices, more people with disabilities can be included successfully. 30% 28% 26%

Q13: And, what would be your second choice?

TOTAL: Answered 743/Skipped 226
CA: Answered 185/Skipped 40
NY: Answered 106/Skipped 30

Answer Total CA NY
Studies show that 70% of people with disabilities want to work and that the majority of young people with disabilities can get jobs and careers when they are given the right opportunities and supports. 29% 25% 28%
Only 35% of working age people with disabilities has a job and the poverty rate of working-age people with disabilities is over twice that of persons without disabilities (29% compared to 13%). 17% 15% 13%
Fully 1 in 5 people have a disability. 14% 14% 14%
There are more than six million children with disabilities, including more than a million black/African American and 1.5 million LatinX students with disabilities in our schools today. 8% 10% 9%
32% of Federal prisoners, 40% of people in jail and the majority of women who are incarcerated have a disability. 5% 9% 4%
Most accommodations to include people with disabilities are simple, free or low cost. With new technology and best practices, more people with disabilities can be included successfully. 27% 26% 31%

Q14: There are several accommodations and accessibility tools that enable people with disabilities to engage in organizations and activities. Which of the following are policies of your organization? Please check all that apply.

TOTAL: Answered 711/Skipped 258
CA: Answered 179/Skipped 46
NY: Answered 103/Skipped 33

Answer Total CA NY
We enable people who are blind or have low vision to be able to access our materials on the web by ensuring that our website is set up properly for screen readers. 17% 16% 17%
We ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can participate by ensuring that all video content has captions. 14% 17% 13%
Our public events enable people with disabilities to request accommodations such as sign language interpreters, live captioning or food allergy issues in the registration form. 30% 34% 20%
Our events are always held in physically accessible spaces that have accessible parking spaces or transportation options for people with physical disabilities. 59% 61% 50%
There is a process where employees, trustees/board members and volunteers with disabilities can request and get needed accommodations if needed so that they can succeed in their roles. 41% 42% 40%
None 16% 15% 19%
Not applicable 10% 9% 13%

Q15: Which of the following groups in your organization include people with disabilities? Please check all that apply.

TOTAL: Answered 718/Skipped 251
CA: Answered 181/Skipped 44
NY: Answered 103/Skipped 33

Answer Total CA NY
Board 24% 29% 23%
Professional leadership/management 20% 23% 18%
Staff overall 42% 51% 45%
Volunteers 41% 41% 39%
People you serve 66% 66% 67%
Not applicable 6% 3% 8%
I don’t know 23% 27% 23%

Q16: Do you ask your members or grantees if they are representative (e.g., staff, board) of the people they serve?

TOTAL: Answered 720/Skipped 249
CA: Answered 181/Skipped 44
NY: Answered 103/Skipped 33

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 28% 33% 27%
No 30% 33% 24%
Not applicable 23% 21% 30%
I don’t know 19% 14% 18%

Q17: (If yes) Is disability included in that representation?

TOTAL: Answered 196/Skipped 773
CA: Answered 58/Skipped 167
NY: Answered 28/Skipped 108

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 47% 50% 36%
No 26% 22% 39%
Not applicable 6% 0% 14%
I don’t know 21% 28% 11%

Q18: Has your organization made an intentional effort to recruit individuals with disabilities for employment, interns, volunteers and/or board positions in your organization?

TOTAL: Answered 706/Skipped 263
CA: Answered 176/Skipped 49
NY: Answered 103/Skipped 33

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 23% 28% 18%
No 46% 48% 54%
Not applicable 5% 3% 9%
I don’t know 25% 21% 18%

Q19: Do you ask your members or grantees to intentionally include people with disabilities in their work?

TOTAL: Answered 707/Skipped 262
CA: Answered 176/Skipped 49
NY: Answered 103/Skipped 33

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 20% 26% 16%
No 39% 37% 45%
Not applicable 23% 22% 26%
I don’t know 19% 15% 14%

Q20: Does your organization depict people with visible disabilities (i.e. show pictures of people who use wheelchairs, white cane, have Down syndrome etc.) in your internal or external marketing and/or advertising materials?

TOTAL: Answered 707/Skipped 262
CA: Answered 177/Skipped 48
NY: answered 102/Skipped 34

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 38% 42% 40%
No 44% 43% 41%
Not applicable 9% 7% 15%
I don’t know 9% 7% 4%

Q21: Do you have a public and explicit policy that your staff/organization cannot deny individuals with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in your services and activities?

TOTAL: Answered 708/Skipped 261
CA: Answered 178/Skipped 47
NY: Answered 102/Skipped 34

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 72% 74% 71%
No 12% 10% 16%
I don’t know 16% 16% 14%

Q22: We want to provide you and the field overall with tools, training and resources that you and others will find helpful as you work to include people with disabilities, just like anyone else. Which of the following would you find helpful? Check all that apply.

TOTAL: Answered 678/Skipped 291
CA: Answered 172/Skipped 53
NY: Answered 100/Skipped 36

Answer Total CA NY
Training in accessible and inclusive communications—technology, website, social media 61% 66% 64%
Training in recruiting, hiring, retaining and succeeding with employees, volunteers and board members with disabilities 61% 69% 66%
Free online tools and training that you can use 24/7 56% 55% 49%
Training in disability etiquette 54% 63% 51%
Money to create accessibility and/or accommodations for people with disabilities 42% 42% 44%
Information and training on how to add the disability lens to work on issues faced by marginalize people (With a special focus on education, homelessness, and/or criminal justice) 40% 43% 34%
Training in physical, programmatic, and event accessibility 36% 40% 39%
Data on people with disabilities and the groups and programs serving them in your specific geographic area 34% 41% 23%
Information on best practices to create success for diverse children with disabilities 27% 29% 19%
Disability-awareness speakers 27% 30% 29%
Information on how to enable job seekers with disabilities to get the education, skills and careers they need to succeed 25% 33% 17%
Resources for English language learners with disabilities 21% 26% 14%
No resources needed 7% 3% 6%

Q23: People who are experiencing incarceration, homelessness, poverty or other challenges often have intersectional identities and barriers. Do you know where to find best practices to help marginalized people with disabilities who may lack literacy, executive function skills or good mental health succeed?

TOTAL: Answered 682/Skipped 287
CA: Answered 171/Skipped 51
NY: Answered 100/Skipped 36

Answer Total CA NY
Yes 28% 28% 29%
No 54% 56% 53%
Not applicable 7% 6% 13%
I don’t know 11% 10% 5%

Q24: What do you think needs to happen for there to be more acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector? For example, have you seen anything that works particularly well that you want to share? What ideas do you have?

TOTAL: Answered 412/Skipped 557
CA: Answered 105/Skipped 120
NY: Answered 58/Skipped 78

(Open-ended/Data N/A)

Q25: What best describes your role in the organization? (If you fill more than one role, please pick your most significant.)

TOTAL: Answered 673/Skipped 296
CA: Answered 170/Skipped 55
NY: Answered 99/Skipped 37

Answer Total CA NY
CEO/Executive 36% 36% 36%
Human Resources 3% 2% 6%
Programming/professional staff 32% 38% 28%
Event planning 2% 1% 2%
Advocacy/Systems change 2% 4% 1%
Direct service 1% 1% 1%
Board Member/Lay Leader 6% 5% 11%
Volunteer 1% 1% 1%
Other 16% 12% 13%

Q26: Do you, a family member, or a close friend have a disability such as a physical, mental health, sensory, learning, cognitive or other disability that impacts daily living? Please check all that apply.

TOTAL: Answered 672/Skipped 297
CA: Answered 170/Skipped 55
NY: Answered 99/ Skipped 37

Answer Total CA NY
I have a disability 16% 19% 8%
I have a close family member with a disability 52% 52% 47%
I have a close friend with a disability 32% 35% 28%
I work professionally on behalf of people with disabilities 21% 29% 19%
I am a volunteer for disability causes 11% 11% 5%
None of the above 21% 15% 28%

Q27: What is your age?

TOTAL: Answered 670/Skipped 299
CA: Answered 169/Skipped 56
NY: Answered 99/Skipped 37

Answer Total CA NY
Under 18 0% 0% 0%
18-22 0% 1% 0%
23-29 6% 7% 7%
30-39 16% 20% 20%
40-44 8% 11% 5%
45-49 12% 10% 7%
50-54 13% 13% 14%
55-59 16% 13% 10%
60-64 14% 17% 14%
65-69 8% 5% 15%
70-74 3% 1% 5%
75+ 3% 2% 2%

Q28: How would you describe yourself?

TOTAL: Answered 672/Skipped 297
CA: Answered 168/Skipped 57
NY: Answered 99/Skipped 37

Answer Total CA NY
White 77% 67% 80%
Black or African American 7% 8% 8%
American Indian 0% 1% 0%
Asian 3% 5% 2%
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander 0% 1% 0%
From multiple races 5% 8% 4%
I prefer not to answer 4% 5% 4%
Other 4% 6% 2%

NOTE: “Hispanic or Latinx” was inadvertently omitted from this response set.

Q29: What is your gender?

TOTAL: Answered 673/Skipped 296
CA: Answered 171/Skipped 54
NY: Answered 98/Skipped 38

Answer Total CA NY
Female 73% 75% 79%
Male 25% 23% 19%
Transgender 1% 1% 0%
Genderqueer/Gender non-conforming 1% 1% 2%

Steps Forward From The Survey

So how do we improve? Our survey findings offer some insight and direction:

3.1. Talking about people with disabilities in a positive way is a good first step.

We suffer from crisis fatigue. The tendency in the social sector to catastrophize the issues we care about and present them in the most drastic terms possible does not work here. And it is not helpful or necessary, given the hopeful potential that exists with inclusion efforts.

When we tested various statements about inclusion for people disabilities, respondents were clearly drawn toward positive messaging. By far the most compelling argument was, “Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect, and include people of all backgrounds. This includes people with disabilities,”selected as the top choice out of five options by nearly half (44 percent) of respondents.

Nearly a quarter (24 percent) chose, “Problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them.” 

Another 18 percent chose, “Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income, achieve independence and be included, just like anyone else,”as the most compelling reason.

These three statements are imbued with optimism and confidence.

Negative messages – like “Only 1 in 3 people with a disability has a job. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as people without disabilities. They are disproportionally impacted by issues of school suspension and dropping out, unemployment, homelessness, abuse, incarceration and other issues,” – were found to be most compelling by just seven percent of respondents. When we asked which of the five was the second most compelling reason, again the responses clustered around the positive messages and there was very little support for those that were negatively framed.

Q 10. What do you think is the most compelling reason to include and increase opportunities for people with disabilities?

All Respondents
Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect and include people of all backgrounds. This includes people with disabilities. 44%
Problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them. 24%
Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income, achieve independence and be included, just like anyone else. 18%
Companies including Microsoft, JPMC, Coca-Cola and others have seen that talented people with disabilities can bring unique experiences, innovation and determination to organizations. It is time for nonprofits and philanthropy to benefit from what people with disabilities CAN do. 8%
Only 1 in 3 people with a disability has a job. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as people without disabilities. They are disproportionally impacted by issues of school suspension and dropping out, unemployment, homelessness, abuse, incarceration and other issues. 7%

Q 11. And what would be your second choice?

All Respondents
Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect and include people of all backgrounds. This includes people with disabilities. 28%
Problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them first hand and know solutions that work. Just like issues that impact people of different racial, ethnic or other backgrounds, people with disabilities should be involved in solving issues that impact them. 27%
Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve equal opportunity to earn an income, achieve independence and be included, just like anyone else. 22%
Companies including Microsoft, JPMC, Coca-Cola and others have seen that talented people with disabilities can bring unique experiences, innovation and determination to organizations. It is time for nonprofits and philanthropy to benefit from what people with disabilities CAN do. 13%
Only 1 in 3 people with a disability has a job. People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor as people without disabilities. They are disproportionally impacted by issues of school suspension and dropping out, unemployment, homelessness, abuse, incarceration and other issues. 10%

Similarly, when asked about facts that convey the importance of inclusion of people with disabilities, positive framing was much more appealing. Given six choices and asked to identify the single most compelling fact about why increasing inclusion of people with disabilities is important, more than a third (37 percent) of respondents chose, “Studies show that 70% of people with disabilities want to work and that the majority of young people with disabilities can get jobs and careers when they are given the right opportunities and supports.” Nearly another third (30 percent) chose the optimistically worded, “Most accommodations to include people with disabilities are simple, free or low cost. With new technology and best practices, more people with disabilities can be included successfully.”

People were far less likely to resonate to dry, basic facts like, “32 percent of Federal prisoners, 40 percent of people in jail, and the majority of women who are incarcerated have a disability”and “There are more than six million children with disabilities, including more than a million black/African American and 1.5 million LatinX students with disabilities in our schools today,” which garnered just three percent and four percent respectively. Again, when we asked for the second most compelling fact, the responses clustered around those with a positive or hopeful presentation.

Q 12. Which one of these facts is most compelling that increasing inclusion of people with disabilities is important?

Bar graph with responses to Question 12. 32% of Federal prisoners, 40% of people in jail and the majority of women who are incarcerated have a disability. Chosen by 3% There are more than six million children with disabilities, including more than a million black/African American and 1.5 million LatinX students with disabilities in our schools today. Chosen by 4% Only 35% of working age people with disabilities has a job and the poverty rate of working-age people with disabilities is over twice that of persons without disabilities (29% compared to 13%). Chosen by 10% Fully 1 in 5 people have a disability. Chosen by 16% Most accommodations to include people with disabilities are simple, free or low cost. With new technology and best practices, more people with disabilities can be included successfully. Chosen by 30% Studies show that 70% of people with disabilities want to work and that the majority of young people with disabilities can get jobs and careers when they are given the right opportunities and supports. Chosen by 37%

Q 13. And, what would be your second choice?

Bar graph with responses to Question 13. 32% of Federal prisoners, 40% of people in jail and the majority of women who are incarcerated have a disability. Chosen by 5% There are more than six million children with disabilities, including more than a million black/African American and 1.5 million LatinX students with disabilities in our schools today. Chosen by 8% Fully 1 in 5 people have a disability. Chosen by 14% Only 35% of working age people with disabilities has a job and the poverty rate of working-age people with disabilities is over twice that of persons without disabilities (29% compared to 13%). Chosen by 17% Most accommodations to include people with disabilities are simple, free or low cost. With new technology and best practices, more people with disabilities can be included successfully. Chosen by 27% Studies show that 70% of people with disabilities want to work and that the majority of young people with disabilities can get jobs and careers when they are given the right opportunities and supports. Chosen by 29%

Expanded inclusion for people with disabilities is hopeful and positive, so why should we not talk about it that way? Providing opportunities for people with disabilities is constructive and important. Presenting it as another crisis does not help the cause. What does help:

Open-Ended Survey Responses:

“Showing positiveexamples of the contributions people with disabilities are making in their communities and workplaces to help shift ideas and bias.”

“Leading by example, promoting the positive outcomes and impacts of hiring and including individuals with disabilities in our diverse workforce. Help others to realize that there is a large untapped workforce that can meet many needs of any employer.”

“Engaging with those that are different and seeing that there are commonalities, they are competent, etc., seems to be the factor that can change hearts and minds.”

“A lot more discussion, news and social media especially highlighting success stories so the general population can become educated and enlightened.”

3.2. Make it your policy.

Talking the talk helps with walking the walk. It increases awareness. It leads to action. It is both a reminder and a commitment. As it pertains to disability inclusion, by nearly every measure in our survey, organizations with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies do better than those without. Organizations with DEI policies that specifically include disabilitydo better still. From representation on the board to representation in marketing materials, from staff trainings to public events – organizations who say disability inclusion matters to them are taking steps to prove it.

Orgs With No DEI Policy Orgs With a DEI Policy Orgs With a DEI Policy That Includes Disability Orgs With People With Disabilities Among Board, Staff or Leadership
Board includes people with disabilities 17% 26% 34% 45%
Professional leadership includes people with disabilities 11% 22% 28% 38%
Staff overall includes people with disabilities 27% 47% 57% 81%
Organization has made intentional efforts to recruit people with disabilities for employment, internships, volunteer or board positions 15% 26% 34% 38%
Organization asks members or grantees to intentionally include people with disabilities in their work 10% 23% 28% 25%
Organization depicts people with visible disabilities in marketing materials 28% 41% 50% 53%
Organization has an explicit public policy that people with disabilities cannot be denied an equal opportunity to participate in services and activities 58% 77% 82% 81%
Events always are held in physically accessible spaces 49% 63% 67% 71%
Website is set up properly for screen readers for people with low vision 9% 19% 24% 24%
All video content has captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing 5% 17% 21% 20%
Public events enable people with disabilities to request accommodations such as sign language interpreters, live captioning, or food allergy alternatives 21% 34% 38% 40%
There is a process for employees, board, or trustees to request and receive accommodations if needed 20% 49% 56% 58%
Learning opportunities for staff include disability as an area of focus 23% 39% 51% 48%

Interview Excerpt:

“When we publicize our conference making clear that inclusion and access is a priority for us and that if you have questions whatsoever about that or you need anything, all you have to do is come and talk to us. Just sending those messages is important. I’m not going to assert that we’re some form of best practices. I think we’re working on all this stuff.”

3.3. Make it your practice.

Declaring your commitment to disability inclusion is meaningful to be sure, but actually hiring people with disabilities is leadership by example. After all, problems are best solved by working with people who have experienced them firsthand and know solutions that work. Organizations that include people with disabilities among their board, leadership, or staff are far more likely to be walking the walk.

For example, 78 percent of organizations whose board, leadership, and staff include people with disabilities have made a public commitment to DEI, compared to 72 percent of the entirety of our survey. A much more pronounced difference exists in whether those DEI policies specifically mentioned disability: 83 percent vs. 68 percent.

Nearly half – 48 percent – of organizations whose board, leadership, or staff include people with disabilities have provided staff DEI learning opportunities that included disability as an area of focus. Among the total, just 35 percent have done so.

Perhaps not surprisingly, organizations whose board, leadership, or staff include people with disabilities have more inclusive internal policies and hiring practices. They are more likely to make intentional efforts when recruiting staff (38 percent vs. 23 percent of the total). They are more likely to ask members or grantees to intentionally include people disabilities in their work (25 percent vs. 20 percent.)  They are more likely to have publicly-stated policies that specifically say the organization cannot deny people with disabilities equal opportunity to participate in services and activities (81 percent vs. 72 percent). They are more likely to have a process where employees, trustees, board members, and volunteers with disabilities can request and receive accommodations as needed so that they can succeed in their roles (58 percent vs. 41 percent).

And they are not just doing better internally. Their public practice is also more welcoming. Organizations whose board, leadership, or staff include people with disabilities are also more likely to show people with visible disabilities in their marketing materials (53 percent vs. 38 percent). For every external-facing inclusion measure we asked about – website compatibility with screen readers, captioning on videos, events held in accessible venues, accommodations such as sign language interpreters – organizations whose board, leadership, or staff include people with disabilities did far better than the survey total.

Although, it is important to note that some of these findings still are dismal. One example is the fact that even among organizations with people with disabilities among their board, leadership, or staff, only one-in-five use captions on all their video content to ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing can participate. This is especially telling as so many millions of people rely on captions in order to understand content, and it can be free and instant to put them on videos via YouTube.

All Respondents Organizations With People With Disabilities Among Board, Staff, or Leadership
Events are always held in physically accessible spaces that have accessible parking or transportation options 59% 71%
Website is set up properly for screen readers for people with low vision 17% 24%
All video content has captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing 14% 20%
Public events enable people with disabilities to request accommodations such as sign language interpreters, live captioning, or food allergy alternatives 30% 40%

Ensuring a fully-accessible website, including both captions and audio descriptions for all products, is important for those who have either visual or auditory disabilities. People who have both auditory and visual disabilities are not only consumers of the information put out by nonprofits and foundations but also may be among the population served by the work of the organization. This assistive technology ensures they are accessible to all. For websites, add tags, captions, a site index and alt text to images. Ensure that all videos have captions. Video hosting sites such as YouTube have free tools that allow users to add automated subtitles to their clips, but this is not as reliable. Auto-captioning is not always perfect. We would recommend ensuring the accuracy of the captions. Vimeo allows its users to upload transcripts to create captions. Making a transcript of the video available online is also an incredibly helpful resource for users who have auditory disabilities, like Deafness or who are Hard of Hearing. Many of these things also increase Search Engine Optimization, increasing a website’s reach and readership.

Does the actual inclusion come first and lead to more awareness and better policies? Or do the policies come first and lead to more inclusion? Our survey does not say, but the correlation is undeniable. Groups whose board, leadership or staff include people with disabilities are far better at inclusion than others in the field.

Open-Ended Survey Responses:

“Having persons with disabilities on staff, in planning committees and as major contributors to events or campaigns will lead to more acceptance and inclusion. Essentially, just ‘doing it.’ As more people with disabilities are included, there will be more visibility and awareness and that will grow the acceptance and inclusion rates.”

“If people were able to see themselves in the place of someone with a disability – or if they had the chance to really know someone or work with someone with a disability – that would really help people see the issue beyond their preconceived notions.”

“We are usually hesitant to accept someone who is different from ourselves because we are not informed. Education, information, and training is always a place to start when it comes to accepting change.”

3.4. Lead with intent. Efforts (or deficiencies) in the social sector are magnified far beyond our own organizations.

Foundations and nonprofits know better than anyone that change does not just happen. Systemic change is premeditated, planned for, and purposefully done. Our field prides itself on thinking long and hard about how best to effect change and improve the world. Our funding dollars influence trends and behavior far beyond our own walls. Our actions provide a model for service as well as the services themselves.

And clearly the will is there. We asked respondents about tools, training, and resources to support the work of including people with disabilities, and interest was overwhelming. A majority of respondents said they would find it helpful to have training in accessible and inclusive communications (technology, website, social media); training in recruiting, hiring, retaining, and succeeding with employees, volunteers, and board members with disabilities; free online tools and training they could use anytime; as well as training in disability etiquette. Nearly half – 42 percent – said it would be helpful to receive money to create accessibility and/or accommodations for people with disabilities.

Additionally, more than a third of respondents said it would helpful to have information and training on how to add the disability lens to work on issues faced by marginalized people; as well as training in physical, programmatic, and event accessibility; and data on people with disabilities and the groups and programs serving them in their specific geographic area. Just seven percent said no resources were needed.

Key takeaways from this research are that leaders should not wait to be asked and funders should be more instructive in their direction. Additionally, people with disabilities need to speak up, although it is not solely their responsibility to advocate for these overdue changes  A person with a disability may not be an expert on every kind of disability and they do not want to carry the baggage of being the “disability voice” in an organization any more than a single person from any other marginalized community in an office wants to speak on behalf of all people from that group. As with all with DEI efforts, there must be experts on a wide variety of inclusion issues involved in the core development of policies and practices.

Our field is creative, scrappy, innovative, and committed. If wearen’t leading on behalf of people with disabilities, it diminishes us, and them, and society. If wedon’t do this, who will?

Interview Excerpts:

“We do not call out disability as specific in a way … My hope and belief is that will shift over time as we become more, as we continue in our work. We are literally, I feel just at the beginning of this journey here. What I can offer is a commitment and a desire for that to happen and that means money, and time, and people and conversation and willingness to shift as needed. I’d love to have this exact conversation with you in a year…just to see where we are and how far we’ve gotten.”

“What we could use right now is good ideas for the kinds of programming that would be useful for the kinds of ways this can be a piece of everyone’s mission. No matter what you’re giving to, whether it’s the arts or education or criminal justice or whatever, chances are there’s a thread that includes this work.”

“Our heart’s in the right place and I think that everybody [here] has a high level of humility. So, that makes us teachable, right? It means we ask our friends how do we show up for them, our members, people of disenfranchised communities. How can we stand up with you or for you? I feel like that’s a good thing. We have the good raw material to start with. But that’s about it right now. And I think seeking to do the right thing is a good quality. You know at least we have that.”

“While inclusion and diversity are core organizational values, this has been primarily framed in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ identity, and immigration status. It would be good for us to also have staff representation who are people with disabilities, and we would be open to suggestions as to how to make this work.”

Open-Ended Survey Responses:

“Nonprofits need to be more aware of the technology that is available to make their offices accessible. For example, our blindstaff member has a device which allows her to read her notes in Braille during a live presentation. Many people may not be aware that these devices are out there and oftentimes people believe people with disabilities are less capable.”

“[It would help if we had] grants that explicitly require people with disabilities to be served, on staff, etc.”

“More team work and workplace structures that don’t expect one person to be able to accomplish everything on their own. More shared responsibility would help hiring managers look beyond a deficit that one person may have and focus on the assets that an entire team has. I think there’s general fear that people with disabilities will be a burden on the organization and our colleagues. If we expect one person to be able to do everything themselves, that will be true (and every employee will experience failure because none of us are able to do everything on our own). A focus on group assets, rather than individual deficits, would create space and acceptance for everyone to bring their highest and best abilities, and make it acceptable to expect us to fill in each other’s gaps.”

“Hiring disabled workers and taking time to train them, has resulted in increased confidence and talent. They were treated and held accountable just like every other staff member.”

“Many of the seeming barriers to entry are easily overcome with clear communication – it needs to be more commonplace to hold the discussions to ensure success for all.”

“I think nonprofits are generally quite committed to diversity and inclusion.  Making sure people understand that diversity includes people with disabilities is critical.”

“People need to JUST DO IT.”

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Janet LaBreck smiling in front of an American flagJanet LaBreck is a pinnacle of change for people with disabilities. Having served as the first African American Commissioner for both the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) as well as the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, she has extensive knowledge of the political sphere. LaBreck overcame significant odds to become a wildly successful pioneer of change. 

LaBreck first noticed her gradual loss of vision as a child when she started having difficulty seeing at night, reading the blackboard and her school textbooks. She would struggle to read aloud in class, sometimes “[guessing] the next word, which usually turned out to be incorrect.”

Teachers initially perceived this as a behavioral issue rather than the onset of LaBreck’s declining vision. When a teacher realized that LaBreck might be having trouble seeing rather than acting out, she went for a vision exam. It took two years for her and three of her siblings to be diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP). LaBreck contends that acceptance of her disability was a long journey lasting from childhood to adulthood. After learning skills that enabled her to perform tasks in non-visual way and meeting people who also were living with vision loss, she was able to accept her disability. [continue reading…]

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Image of Maya Angelou from around 1970, black and white photo of her face looking to the side

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou was an award-winning author, poet, civil rights activist, college professor and screen writer. Most recognized for her literary works, Angelou was and remains among the most influential woman of her time. After passing away in 2014, Angelou still is widely remembered and honored for her hard work and perseverance over decades.

As a child, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. While the boyfriend was found guilty, he was jailed for just one day. Four days later, he was murdered, with the theory that Angelou’s uncles did so. As a result, Angelou became mute for almost five years. [continue reading…]

Honoring Women with Disabilities During Women’s History Month

Lois Curtis smiling

Lois Curtis

People with disabilities can thank Lois Curtis for paving the way for them to live in the community while receiving the services they need.

In what many called “the most important decision for people with disabilities in history,” the Olmstead Decision justified the right for people with disabilities to live independently but would take four years to come in effect including being heard in the Supreme Court.

At the center of the 1999 lawsuit that cited a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson, two women with mental and intellectual disabilities. They were held in Georgia Regional Hospital for years after their treatment team determined they were able to live in the community because the state did not want to give them the funds they needed to live independently.

While she was growing up, Curtis was diagnosed with intellectual and mental disabilities. As a result, she would get into trouble constantly – at home and at school. The police were called several times and they would take her to jail or to a mental hospital. [continue reading…]

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