Foundations & Nonprofits Come Together to Put Disabled People to Work

It’s no secret that life as a disabled person can be difficult. There’s physical and mental challenges to contend with; the misconceptions and judgements of other people; and, of course, bureaucracy to navigate. And it can be much, much harder to find a job. The unemployment rate for disabled people in the U.S. is about double that for non-disabled people.  

We don’t have numbers for New York State in particular, but we do know that groups in that state are teaming up to do something about the disparity. New York Collaborates for Autism, in partnership with Autism Speaks, the Kessler Foundation, the May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust, and the Poses Family Foundation, has announced a $7.5 million effort to expand employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities and accelerate the adoption of disability inclusion initiatives.

It’s seeking a collaborative strategy, one that expands employment opportunities for disabled folks while simultaneously pushing disability inclusions initiatives. The goal behind the increased bandwidth created by this initiative involves pulling together companies, NPOs, schools, universities, and public agencies to work together on the subject. In other words, it’s a bold new world.

Perhaps the most noteworthy project this funding will support is the expansion of the Pepsi ACT (Achieving Change Together) initiative, a national multiyear campaign to boost employment of people with disabilities by PepsiCo. The program has already launched in three U.S. and two pilot sites, and this will help it continue that push. No word yet on where, exactly, the program will focus its efforts, given this flux of new funding.

Also on board, the U.S. Business Leadership Network’s Going for the Gold project, which seeks to pool six big national employers’ efforts to hire more disabled people, thereby troubleshooting concerns, boosting efficacy and making the whole thing in general a lot more high-impact.

Disability inclusion projects in various local communities are also on the bandwagon: specifically, a “cluster” model pioneered by the Poses Family Foundation, which has three key components:

  • An employer consortium committed to implementing or expanding programs to employ individuals with disabilities, which agrees to share ownership of the cluster initiative, accountability for hiring goals, and regular communication to share best practices.
  • A community partnership, to coordinate services for job-seekers with disabilities, with a single point of contact for employers.
  • A talent pool to foster connections among employers, public and private agencies, and schools to reach young adults with disabilities who are in transition from school to work, including students with learning and attention issues who are often not reached by traditional agencies.