Collectively, people with disabilities constitute the nation’s largest minority group, and the only minority group of which any of us can become a member at any time (Disability Funders Network). What’s more, people with disabilities are among the most marginalized groups in the world. On the whole, the group is known to have poorer health outcomes, lower educational achievements, less economic participation, and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities.
We feel that it is important to identify nonprofits that are doing outstanding work on a national level in the area of people with disabilities. Nonprofits working in this field cover a wide range of issues including accessibility, support services, medical care, social justice work, stigma reduction, and research. This diverse world of nonprofits reflects the diversity of the population of people with disabilities and their various needs.
Revisiting this Research
In 2011, when we last ran this research, 79 experts identified 11 outstanding nonprofits working in the field of people with disabilities. We refresh our research every three years and it is interesting to note the ways that the sector may have changed since we last explored it. For starters, one expert noted that the US disabled population has grown by nearly 1 million individuals since this research was last run. This represents both challenges and possibilities in the sector. Experts were also optimistic about the rapid progress seen in research in recent years. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 has also had major implications for the sector. Among other things, the law is designed to ensure that those with previously existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. The experts we interviewed noted that this represents a huge positive change for the sector. It will be very interesting to see if, and in what ways, these changes have affected the nonprofit landscape.
Experts will be asked to recommend up to four nonprofit organizations making a significant impact in the field of people with disabilities. They will also be asked to recommend up to two promising start-up nonprofits.
Major issue areas – While this list is not exhaustive, the following is a list of issue areas that nonprofits in the sector are addressing:
- Access/services – This broad category refers to the development and delivery of supports that help people with disabilities go about their desired activities within the community. This includes transportation, work/school accommodations, assistive technology, and care takers.
- Employment – Employment is a key indicator in quality of life—affecting income, socialization, and self-worth. This makes the ongoing trend of low employment for this population particularly troubling. In March 2013, the current unemployment rate was double that of those without disabilities. This is contrary to the fact that studies have shown that hiring persons with disabilities generally has positive financial benefits for a company. (Kessler Foundation)
- Health care – Issues around receiving adequate, affordable, and timely health care often trouble this community.
- Housing – People with disabilities over the age of 21 attempting to live independently often encounter housing issues related to affordability, access, and availability.
The field of people with disabilities covers a wide range of often overlapping populations served including:
- Those with cognitive or developmental disabilities
- Those with mental disabilities
- Those with physical disabilities
Experts are encouraged to consider different types of nonprofits including:
- · Direct service providers
- · Education/training providers
- Health care providers
- · Policy/advocacy organizations
- · Research organizations
- · Sports/physical activity groups
Participation in the Research
If you are a professional (foundation staff, researcher, nonprofit staff member, etc.) working in the field of people with disabilities and have insight on nonprofit organizations working in this field, we’d love to hear from you. You may have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until late August 2013. We hope you will share your perspective and insights! If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would be happy to send the survey to you to include your recommendations.
Additionally, we invite your feedback and thoughts about how you might frame this type of work. For those readers less familiar with this topic, we hope you learned something new and will check in again when we have the results of this research. Thank you all for your participation!