The most vital component of achieving social justice is centering the leadership and perspectives of marginalized communities. Funders must actively forge meaningful connections and partnerships to honor the disability rights and justice mantra “nothing about us, without us.”
“How can we begin to develop strong relationships with the disability community?”
The list below offers suggested starting points for outreach. Note that while some of these suggestions may not be specifically disability-led, they can be resources to help you directly connect with disabled people on both local and national levels.
Key things to consider while reaching out to the disability community:
- There are more than 1 billion disabled people worldwide, and each person has a different disability experience based on numerous factors, including the type of disabilities they have and the overlapping identities they hold. No single person or organization can speak for the whole of the disability community. This is why it’s crucial to diversify your outreach!
- It’s important to prioritize engaging with organizations led by people with lived disability experience. The Disability Rights Fund describes these as “Disabled persons’ organizations,” which are representative organizations or groups in which people with disabilities constitute a majority of the overall staff, board, and volunteers in all levels of the organization.
- The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double that of non-disabled people. When consulting with disabled people and disability-led organizations, be sure to compensate them fairly for their time and insights.
Starting Points to Connect with and Learn from the Disability Community
- ADA Centers: provide information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of businesses, government entities, organizations, and individuals
- Centers for Independent Living: consumer-controlled, community-based, cross-disability, nonresidential private nonprofit agencies that are designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities
- Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities: the largest coalition of national disability service and provider organizations working together to advocate for federal public policy that ensures the self-determination, independence, empowerment, integration and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities in all aspects of society
- Disability Inclusion Fund grantees: organizations strengthening disability inclusion, rights, and justice that have received grants from the Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy
- Mayor’s Offices for People with Disabilities: entities that serve as liaisons local governments and the disability community
- Organizations centering the intersections of disability with other marginalized identities
- Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs): provide a variety of direct services for children and youth with disabilities, families, professionals, and other organizations that support them
- Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and Client Assistance Programs (CAP): a federally mandated network that is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.
- State Developmental Disabilities (DD) Councils: made up of voluntary members appointed by the state’s governor. By law, the majority of members must have a developmental disability or be a family member to a person with developmental disability. DD Councils focus on creating programs and advocating policy that empower individuals with developmental disabilities and allows them to participate as an equal member of society
- University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs): work with people with disabilities, members of their families, state and local government agencies, and community providers in projects that provide training, technical assistance, research, and information sharing
This list is provided for informational purposes only and does not represent endorsement by the Disability & Philanthropy Forum.