Kessler Foundation has awarded nearly 2.5 million in grants to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create or expand job training and employment initiatives for people with disabilities. Since 2000, the Foundation's distribution of more than $36 million has led to improved job skills and paid employment for more than 3,000 individuals with disabilities.
"Our goal through these programs is to raise awareness that people with disabilities are often an untapped resource for employment opportunities, and have the ability to help grow a company's bottom line," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "Our National Employment and Disability Survey found that 69% of people with disabilities are striving to work. Some are actively job-hunting, and others are preparing by getting the training, education, and rehabilitation they need to succeed in the workplace. These grants help support them."
Signature Employment Grants
More than $1.8 million dollars in Signature Employment Grants - the Foundation's largest grants - have been distributed to five initiatives in four states. Signature Grants range from $200,000 to $500,000 over a two-year period. These awards support pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, or social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to increase employment among people with disabilities.
Here's a summary of the recently awarded Signature Employment Grants:
A Virtual Reality Job Interview Training program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor uses speech recognition software to simulate job interviews, allowing for highly personalized role-play and precise feedback and coaching. The May Institute's new initiative, Meaningful Jobs, will identify, train, and support people with autism spectrum disorder for potential employment in the security industry. Career Success, an initiative of the Mental Health Association of South Central Kansas, will improve employment outcomes for people with behavioral health issues through the unique, synergistic effect of integrating three evidence-based strategies into one Supported Employment program. The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission will launch Career Pathway Services, a program to develop a customized employment and peer support model to work toward reducing unemployment and reliance on public benefits for individuals with disabilities. NYC: AT WORK will connect people with disabilities to meaningful, living-wage jobs by working with the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities to build partnerships and expand coalitions.
"Our newly-released, year-end nTIDE (National Trends in Disability Employment) report shows the longest run of employment gains for Americans with disabilities since the Great Recession. Our grant programs are particularly important now, to help continue those positive employment trends," said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. "We're looking for organizations with bold, scalable ideas to create new employment models for public and private institutions that will provide ways to overcome obstacles to employment for people with disabilities."
Community Employment and Special Initiative Grants
Community Employment Grants advance job training and employment opportunities for New Jersey residents with disabilities, while supporting entrepreneurship and social enterprise.
The Foundation has distributed awards totaling $225,000 to three programs. Initiatives include an innovative transition program to help connect students with work opportunities matched to their skills, strengths, and interests; a program to develop skills and opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through boosting business and community-based provider engagement, job training, and placement; and a comprehensive graphic design training program that provides the opportunity for employment to people with autism spectrum disorder. Community Grants range from $50,000 to $200,000 over two years.
Special Initiative Grants support a variety of efforts in New Jersey to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
The Foundation has distributed $144,000 to a dozen, wide-ranging programs. Initiatives include scholarships, disability programming, plus classroom and work site accommodations for two New Jersey students with disabilities; accounting software training for small business and financial professionals who have transitioned into the blind or print-disabled community; a statewide survey and focus groups to explore the participation in cultural events among people with various disabilities; and classes for children, veterans, and other adults with disabilities, including ballet, Tai Chi, fly fishing, and competitive adaptive sports. Special Initiative Grant applications are by invitation only, and the awards range from $5,000 to $20,000 for a period of one year.
Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit KesslerFoundation.org