Philanthropic Responses to COVID-19: 4 Disability-Inclusive Approaches

Attendees, including Judith Heumann, gather around a table at a meeting of the Presidents’ Council.

This resource offers four disability-inclusive approaches, each accompanied by examples, to inform your foundation’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For so many of the 1 billion people worldwide who have disabilities – including chronic illnesses – the repercussions of COVID-19 will be disproportionately catastrophic. Society has always failed to prioritize access and inclusion for people with disabilities. But now, the pandemic has significantly amplified how urgent it is for all of us to uphold the rights of the disability community to access life-saving healthcare and other life-sustaining services. As the world finds ways to heal, rebuild, and move forward, it is more vital than ever to recognize and address the needs of the disability community in our grantmaking.

How can you incorporate this lens into your COVID-19-related responses? Four key approaches to disability-inclusion in your current responses include:

  1. Flexibility,
  2. Disability-focused rapid response
  3. Inclusive grant application processes
  4. Sharing disability inclusion resources with grantees.

It is imperative to include the perspectives of people with disabilities in your decision-making processes and recognize interconnections with disability in all future funding. Crisis can catalyze collaboration. If building new relationships is not feasible, there are many rich resources available online as a starting point.

​In these challenging times, disability-inclusive grantmaking efforts are crucial for the very survival of people with disabilities. By following the lead of the examples we share below, your foundation has a powerful opportunity to play a role in disability-inclusive relief efforts.

Looking for a helpful starting point? We recommend the following blog posts

1. Be flexible.

Providing grantees flexibility in terms of the grant purpose, deadlines, reporting and grant periods, allows grantees to best address this unprecedented challenge and maintain strong operations.

2. Include disability in your rapid-response funding efforts.

3. Ensure that the grant application process is fully inclusive and accessible to people with disabilities.

Here are some helpful tips from the Ford Foundation:

4. Share disability learning resources with grantees and encourage engagement with the disability community within their COVID-19 responses.

Ensure all of your grantmaking moving forward is disability inclusive. You can increase funding to grantees doing specific disability-related work, but also remember: disability intersects with all other communities and identities, connecting with all of the work we do.

​How are your foundations including the disability community in your grantmaking? Please send us examples at so we can keep this resource up-to-date.