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Celebrating 25 Years of ADA

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This year, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). With the ADA, our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. In line with our work to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for all people, the ADA represents a commitment to ensuring opportunity and access for people with disabilities. In philanthropy, we have the opportunity to ensure that people with disabilities are represented both in the decision-making process and the outcomes of our work. Brown_Kelly-2The fourth post in our series is from D5 Director, Kelly Brown.


With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 25 years ago, our nation committed itself to eliminating discrimination against people with disabilities. Since then, people with disabilities have overcome a myriad of barriers—both literal and figurative. They have greater access to public resources, and have protections against discrimination in the workplace. But we must remind ourselves that there is more to inclusivity than wheelchair ramps.

The philanthropic community prides itself on doing the best for the constituencies we serve. As we celebrate the anniversary of this historic milestone in our fight for equal opportunity for all, foundations should recommit to ensuring that people with disabilities are represented both in the decision-making process and the outcomes of our work.

Importantly, we need to do more to walk the talk by ensuring that people with diverse abilities are visible and present within our own ranks. One in five Americans has a disability; they are likely members of every community we serve. When we bring people living with disabilities onto our own teams, we gain the knowledge and perspective to better serve our constituencies, which allows us to better advance the common good.

In thinking about what your foundation can do to better serve and support people with disabilities, there is one important step we hear time and again: just ask. As Anne Mulgrave, Manager of Grants and Accessibility at the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, recently commented on this blog, “People with disabilities know the support they need and the best way to provide it. Respect comes from asking questions, listening to the answers and following through.”

We did just that. And below are some tangible ways for us to hold up a mirror to our own inclusive practices and move toward inclusivity in our own organizations right now, shared with us by people at disability-focused organizations:

  1. Add a disability metric to your monitoring and evaluation work with nonprofits.
  2. Ensure that when you and your nonprofit partners are collecting data to better understand who you are serving, the voices of people with different abilities are included and counted.
  3. Invite people to list any accommodations they might need (e.g., sign language interpreters or the ability to bring a service animal) on all your event or conference registration forms.
  4. Have someone who uses a wheelchair personally check the physical accessibility of your offices and programs for people who use wheelchairs.
  5. Have a person who is blind and who uses adaptive computer technology check your website and facilities for accessibility.
  6. Incorporate captions on the videos you use or produce.
  7. Include a diversity statement in job descriptions that encourages people from different backgrounds and abilities to apply.

To ensure we continue to be as inclusive and effective as possible, we urge the philanthropy community to keep people living with disabilities in mind when developing inclusive business practices.

Learn more about how you can make your foundation and philanthropy more inclusive here, and familiarize yourself with the ADA regulations many small businesses are required to follow here.

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