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Summer 2017 Fellows standing or seated in wheelchairs, smiling and posing for the camera

Public Policy and Employment Fellowship

The National Leadership Program: Fellowship in Public Policy and Employment


National Leadership Program participants standing in front of the White House

Our nation was founded on the principle that anyone who works hard should be able to get ahead in life. People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to earn an income and achieve independence, just like anyone else. However, only one-in-three working-age Americans with disabilities is employed.

RespectAbility works with key leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors to fight stigmas and expand opportunities for all people with disabilities. We work to educate leaders at the federal, state and local level about best practices that will empower more people with disabilities to enter the workforce. We advocate for proven policies that will be a win-win-win solution for taxpayers, businesses and Americans with disabilities.

Public Policy and Employment Fellows support the work of RespectAbility’s Policy and Practices Director in order to advance our policy agenda and to achieve our organizational goals. Fellows will work substantively contribute to RespectAbility’s work by helping to develop resources, research materials and publish reports that will showcase replicable practices and provide our partners with critical tools. We will collaborate with other disability organizations on policies that impact disability employment at the Federal level. We will continue working with Governors and other leaders to implement state policies that will support transitions from school to work for youth with disabilities. At the local level, Fellows will be involved in the development of geographically focused partnerships. These Communities of Practices will bring together committed stakeholders on disability employment.

Who We Want

The National Leadership Program is ideal for people who want to gain skills and contacts while making a positive difference for people with disabilities. We are looking for thoughtful and results-driven individuals who want to achieve breakthrough results while getting hands-on experience. The fellowship is for college and graduate students (with an interest in pursuing a career in government or public policy) as well as for people transitioning into the workforce for the first time, or back into the workforce after a break.

Fellowship Duties

We are focusing in particular on the promotion of best practices. As such, we are looking for people with a strong background who are interested in public policy and/or employment issues. Fellows will gain experience working with state officials, private sector employers and other disability organizations.

The fellows will work closely with our National Leadership Program Director and Policy and Practices Director. Individual projects will be assigned based on an individual’s unique skill set and their own ability to “bring something to the table.” Projects might include writing op-eds, researching issues for press releases, collaborating with the Policy Director on public testimony related to employment issues, visiting inclusive employers, and attending meetings with key state or local leaders in the fields of business, disability, and government. Employment advocacy fellows will join supervisors at workshops and webinars that pertain to state politics and employment.

Each fellow will receive many opportunities to learn new skills, network, and gain direct experiences. In addition to hands-on work experiences, all fellows will participate in special presentations by guest speakers and intensive strategic communications workshops. A career plan will be developed by each fellow that will enable him or her to gain appropriate workplace experience while measurably contributing to RespectAbility’s mission. Upon the completion of the fellowship program, applicants can expect to come away with excellent experience in the field of public policy, professional networking connections in Washington, D.C., and leadership skills to help them grow into confident advocates.

Important Details for Applicants

  • Excellent communication and organizational skills are strongly preferred, and Fellows should exhibit leadership skills to complete their own projects.
  • Strong preference for college juniors and above.
  • Commit for a minimum of nine weeks.
  • Hours are 9-5. Summer Fellows are required to work a minimum of 35 hours per week and Spring/Fall Fellows should be able to work at least 20 hours a week, though 40 hours per week is preferred.
  • There is no tuition cost to do the Fellowship, and stipend Fellows will be awarded $300 a month as a transportation reimbursement.
  • A limited number of paid Fellowships will receive $15/hr for a total of 360 hours of work.
  • The Fellowship takes place in Rockville, Maryland. The office is a short distance from the White Flint Metro Station on the Red Line.
  • Your cover letter must explain why this Fellowship in particular is of interest to you and why you believe you have the skills, focus and independent drive to make a positive difference in your time with us at RespectAbility.

RespectAbility provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or genetics. In addition to federal law requirements, RespectAbility complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.

Fill out the linked Google Doc Form and send your resume and cover letter to Ben Spangenberg at to apply for any of our National Leadership Program opportunities! If you are applying for a paid Fellowship, explain in your cover letter how you can advance diversity and intersectionality issues.






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Respect Ability - Fighting Stigmas. Advancing Opportunities.


HQ: 11333 Woodglen Drive, #102, Rockville, MD 20852
West Coast: 350 S Bixel Street
Los Angeles CA 90017

Office Number: 202-517-6272


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