Research shows that implicit bias and barriers even come from people and groups with the best intentions. In the philanthropic sector, people with disabilities are grossly underrepresented within funding institutions. And given that most disability groups were founded by white, two-parent families who have a child with a particular disability, only a narrow band of disability awareness and sensitivity is ingrained within an organization, leaving huge disconnects between the organizations and the communities they pledge to serve. To unlock capacities, philanthropic and nonprofit organizations need to create action plans to welcome, respect and include people of all backgrounds and abilities. How can they do it?

  1. Overcome your biases and publicly commit to disability inclusion. Major studies have found that people with disabilities are viewed through the lens of what they cannot do, instead of what they can achieve. However, an Accenture study showed that hiring disabled employees actually makes companies more successful.
  2. Open hearts and minds to see ableism all around us. When you enter a building that does not have a doorway or bathroom accessible to someone who uses a wheelchair, do you recognize it and take actions to correct it?
  3. Create an inclusion committee and leverage outside expertise. It is critical that disabled people be on your access and inclusion team. At the same time, avoid tokenism. Invite people who have expertise in the area to participate.
  4. Conduct a formal audit of your disability equity, access, and inclusion practices.
  5. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound disability access and inclusion goals.
  6. Collect demographic data internally, and ask your grant partners to do the same. 
  7. Work with disability groups that are led by diverse people with a range of disabilities. Now we must be much more intersectional, get past the medical model of disability, and move to a social model of eliminating the barriers created by societal choices. These solutions must be led by diverse people with disabilities.

Read the full article about including people with disabilities by Jennifer Mizrahi at PEAK Grantmaking.