2019 Spring Fellows at US Capitol Building
I cannot thank you enough for your support! I’d like to update you on key progress for people with disabilities that YOU helped make possible! Keep in mind that fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities is not an overnight project. Still, major foundations are being laid. Since August we have achieved the following:
RespectAbility’s Policy Department has been able to develop crucial advocacy materials towards saving the Work Opportunity Tax Credit from elimination under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. We collaborated with local advocates to develop transformative resources in multiple languages and worked with Governors and other leaders in 37 states to make new commitments on jobs for people with disabilities. We have continued to lead as one of the Co-Chairs of the Employment and Training Task Force of the Consortium of Citizens with Disabilities (CCD). The Task Force works on issues relevant to the employment of people with disabilities as part of a 120-member strong advocacy coalition. Key work has included a strong focus on consensus building around competitive, integrated employment as well as working against proposed changes to the regulatory environment regarding the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Our Fellows have also written nationally distributed policy reports, which analyzed key regulatory challenges to disability employment at the Federal level and researched innovative best practices to improve education outcomes for students with disabilities.
RespectAbility also compiles and publishes data from the Disability Employment Compendium, detailing disability employment rates in each of the fifty states, on our website. To promote awareness of the Compendium’s findings, we visited all the offices of Congress and informed them on where their states stand in terms of employment for people with disabilities based on the Compendium’s statistics and provided them with information on how they could improve and what other states have done that has helped. Members of Congress were also encouraged to complete a survey indicating where they stand in terms of disability policies, which we will use the responses for to create a database on our website so prospective voters will know where their members of Congress stand since disabilities have been found to affect 74% of likely voters, through either personal or familial connections to disability.
RespectAbility successfully recruited, trained and provided key skills for career advancement to 35 Fellows. Fellows heard from 25 speakers who are active in disability, policy, communications, philanthropy, strategic communications, Hollywood, the faith community, and more. Additionally, each cohort went to Capitol Hill and met staffers from both houses of Congress, and in some cases, members of Congress themselves. Fellows use this opportunity to discuss the importance of disability issues to public officials and their staff, focusing on either the impact legislation could have for people with disabilities in their district/state or asking them to complete our questionnaires which serve as a nonpartisan voting guide.
Over the past year RespectAbility fellows worked with Governors and other leaders in 32 states to make new commitments on jobs for people with disabilities. Fellows have also written nationally distributed policy reports, analysis of key regulatory challenges to disability employment at the Federal level, and researched innovative best practices to improve education outcomes for students with disabilities. Fellows have written drafts of grant proposals, assisted in prospect research, and successfully interviewed executives of foundations and other philanthropic organizations on diversity, equity and inclusion. Additionally, Fellows have aided our Hollywood Inclusion initiative by participating in script reviews, writing blog posts, and helping in the production of our Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit.
RespectAbility gained major traction in terms of encouraging major foundation and philanthropists to think about adding disability to their work and their staff. We identified foundations that want to alleviate poverty, fund workforce programs, address racial disparities and injustices, focus on education attainment rates, and reform the justice system. Through one-on-one trainings, online webinars, free resources and other direct training, we educate funders about the correlation between poverty and disabilities, between low employment participation rates and poverty, and about intersectionality and disability. We help foundations develop their own inclusive hiring practices and make their websites accessible to those with hearing and vision impairments.
In 2018, we reached hundreds of philanthropic organizations and their staffers through in-person and online trainings. One of the largest trainings included a session at the Southern California Grantmakers regional association before 600 representatives of grantmaking organizations. We worked extensively this year in training in Virginia, Washington DC, Maryland, New York City, and San Francisco. We also produced a toolkit for philanthropists who want to expand their impact through disability inclusion, and are continually updating and adding resources to the toolkit. As an example of the impact this work has, The Ford Foundation has made a permanent, multi-million dollar per year pledge to serve people with disabilities after conversation and trainings with RespectAbility. Finally, RespectAbility recently conducted a national survey of inclusion for people with disability in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector. This study was the first of its kind and gives vital and current information on the strengths and weaknesses in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector and allows for informed next steps.
RespectAbility has a strong Communications team that works tirelessly on promoting our name and accomplishments. Our Vice President of Communications, Lauren Appelbaum, brings more than 15 years of experience in strategic communications, writing, video and web production, news gathering and social media to the disability agenda. Through her leadership and connections with press outlets, we can successfully broadcast our accomplishments.
RespectAbility has developed many important resources that promote how to create opportunities for people with disabilities. In partnership with more than 40 individuals and organizations, we created the first Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and have been able to advance best practices by developing substantive relationships with the entertainment industry’s leading professional and labor union organizations. Additionally, within Hollywood, we have conducted trainings for ABC/Disney, NBC/Universal, Netflix and Pixar on the importance of accurate inclusion of characters with disabilities on screen and better hiring practices of people with disabilities in all areas behind the screen. We also worked with Bunim/Murray Productions to launch the Emmy-winning reality show Born This Way to show an accurate portrayal of individuals living with Down syndrome.
We are hard at work continuing and expanding our projects. However, it is worth noting that RespectAbility still is hampered by the fact that we are understaffed and under-resourced. We are eagerly reaching out to make new relationships with potential funders. We are deeply grateful for your earlier investment in our work. Please email me at email@example.com with any questions or comments that you may have. Thanks for your investment in our work – and for the other amazing work you are doing on so many fronts!
I hope that you will continue to invest in the ground-breaking work. Thank you for joining with us in creating a better future for people with disabilities!
RespectAbility with Chairman of NCD
Spring 2019 with Speaker Ming Canady
RespectAbility with Former White House Press Aid
RespectAbility with Cal Harris, Chair Emeritus