Charity to people with disabilities goes back to Biblical times, but philanthropy involving meaningful input from those served is a recent phenomenon. The demand for “nothing about us without us” is core to the ethos of the disability rights movement. Major civil rights legislation for the one-in-five of us with disabilities—the Americans with Disabilities Act—is only 30 years old. When thinking about accessibility, we’re starting to consider more than ramps and bathrooms, like information access and attitudes like who should be at the board table.

Here’s a checklist for you to consider with reference to your favorite nonprofit organization and its board, followed by suggestions and reflections on attempting to “do good” better. I offer them from the perspective of a white cisgender aging woman with disabilities who has been a volunteer and a board member for several nonprofits.

Is Your Organization and its Board Access Able?

  • Are your facilities accessible?
    • Wheelchair access throughout the facility?
    • Website, newsletters, emails, etc. usable with screen readers?
  • Are your customers, volunteers, staff, and board representative of all people?
    • 20% have disabilities
  • Do your board and staff receive training about disability as diversity and ableism?
  • Is disability part of your DEI work or just an afterthought?
  • Are your programs and materials accessible to:
    • Deaf and hearing-impaired people?
    • Wheelchair users?
    • Blind and low-vision people?
    • People with cognitive issues?
    • People with sensory issues and/or autism?
  • Is accessibility advertised? If not, consider adding the following to all publicity: “If you need disability accommodations, please contact X two weeks before the program and we will attempt to meet your accommodation needs.”
  • Does your planning process include consideration of access issues and their funding?
    • Where’s the money coming from to make disability accommodations?
  • Are access issues mentioned in your fundraising?
    • Have you consulted your local Center for Independent Living for advice about how to make and fund disability accommodations as inexpensively as possible?
    • Have you consulted the library’s grants and foundation databases for sources of funding?

Read the full article about accessible boards by Katherine Schneider at Nonprofit Quarterly.