Two Million Bucks to Connect People with Disabilities to the Workplace

It’s an organization strictly devoted to helping folks with disabilities live fulfilling lives. The Kessler Foundation in West Orange, New Jersey, has just announced grants totaling $2.1 million to do just that—specifically, to create and expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Here’s how it breaks down. More than $1.2 million went through its Signature Employment program, which is specifically designed to encourage pilot programs or other upstart initiatives. That money went various places. Nearly $500,000 went to the University of New Hampshire to conduct a national survey assessing the employment status of Americans with disabilities. Another $378,300 was awarded to 21 and Able, which is run by the United Way of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania, and will be used to build the capacity of local businesses to employ and retain young people with disabilities. An additional $339,000 will go to ServiceSource in Clearwater, Florida, for a veterans with disabilities initiative called the Warrior Bridge Brain Injury Demonstration Project, which works to increase community integration, self-sufficiency, and employment outcomes for veterans and other individuals who have suffered a brain injury.

The foundation’s Community Engagement Program also awarded money—$740,000 to expand general job training and employment opportunities in surrounding area for adults, students, and veterans with disabilities, and Special Initiative Grants totaling $150,000 in support of exercise and recreational programs, access to museums and the arts, vocational activities, and a specialized sensory garden for people with disabilities.

"At Kessler Foundation, we believe in supporting unique initiatives that have the potential to support employment opportunities for large numbers of people with disabilities and can be replicated in other states," said Elaine Katz, the foundation’s senior vice president of grants and communications. "Our latest grantees not only focus on developing job skills, but they also remove barriers caused by 'fear of the unknown' by working with employers to match individuals to the appropriate jobs, coordinate accommodations, and educate staff. The national survey will also educate the disability field on best practices to improve employment outcomes for this talented population."