Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that one in four adults has a disability. But fewer than 1 percent of foundations employ any people with disabilities on their full-time staff, according to a recent report from the Council on Foundations. While the philanthropic sector routinely proclaims its support for disability employment, it has a long way to go on turning talk into action.
“I see tremendous goodwill and an interest in doing better,” says Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, president of RespectAbility, a national disability advocacy nonprofit. “But most foundations still haven’t made a real commitment to including people with disabilities and creating opportunities for them to participate fully in philanthropy.”
The report echoes the conclusions of RespectAbility’s 2019 Disability in Philanthropy & Nonprofits study, which found that even among this well-intentioned sector, most organizations are not doing enough—or anything—to recruit people with disabilities and equip them to succeed professionally. To cite one example, few foundations have taken the simple step of making their websites screen reader-accessible, which virtually excludes sight-impaired individuals from learning about job postings.
To counter that trend, RespectAbility has developed a set of resources to help philanthropic and nonprofit organizations become more inclusive. For example, its Inclusive Philanthropy toolkit offers tips on etiquette, a guide to disability-related acronyms, a comprehensive disability FAQ, and information on specific disabilities. In 2020, RespectAbility produced an eight-part webinar series titled “Including People with Disabilities in Nonprofits and Foundations.” All eight webinars were recorded and are available to watch with open captions on RespectAbility’s website.
“Organizations are at their best when they welcome, respect, and include people of all backgrounds—and this includes people with disabilities,” Mizrahi says. “We believe that acknowledging the problem is the first step toward fixing it.”