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Disability Community Employment Opportunities - Kessler Foundation

  • Published: 2009-10-14 (Revised/Updated 2010-01-30) : Kessler Foundation.
  • Synopsis: National Disability Employment Awareness Month calls attention to serious job challenges facing the disability community.

Main Document

Kessler Foundation Urges Improvement in Employment Opportunities for the Disability Community - Largest Minority Population in the U.S. Faces Serious Employment Challenges.

Kessler Foundation, one of the largest non-profits supporting individuals with disabilities, is honoring National Disability Employment Awareness Month by calling attention to the serious challenges facing the disability community in this key area. With more than 55 million people affected by disabilities, this, the largest minority group in the United States, faces unique obstacles in the area of disability employment. Kessler Foundation and the programs it funds provide critical support and opportunities to individuals with disabilities facing employment challenges.

"For decades, Kessler Foundation has worked to improve the quality of life of individuals with disabilities through advanced medical research and grants for employment opportunities," stated Rodger DeRose, President and CEO of Kessler Foundation. "For this large population, many needs in the area of employment are not being met - nor is the scope completely understood." While the greater than nine percent rate of unemployment in the general population is widely considered unacceptable, consider the 16.9 percent rate in the population with disabilities - a rate that exceeds that of the general population's by almost 80 percent. "Finding a job is hard enough, having a disability makes it even harder," emphasized DeRose. This is why Kessler Foundation awards grants to organizations that are exploring creative ways to expand employment options for people with disabilities.

"Gainful employment is integral to a person's independence and self esteem," said Elaine E. Katz, Vice President of Grant Programs and Special Initiatives at Kessler Foundation Program Center. "There are numerous resources available to assist individuals with disabilities to enter or reenter the workforce but more is necessary to raise awareness of these resources and to meet the needs of this dynamic group." The Program Center grants address transportation needs, workplace access, and assistive technology in the workplace, as well as vocational training, job placement and other employment services. Funded programs serve high school and college students, young adults with disabilities and wounded veterans disabled by injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result of Kessler Foundation's focus on employment programs, people with disabilities are undergoing training, attending college, and finding meaningful employment in a variety of settings including retail stores, laboratories, government facilities, offices and agribusinesses.

To promote awareness of people with disabilities as skilled and loyal employees, Kessler Foundation encourages businesses to hire people with disabilities through business networks and educational outreach. The Foundation is a national partner for a new advocacy initiative called Disabilities at Work. Established and managed by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Disabilities at Work acknowledges and rewards businesses that support people with disabilities by identifying such businesses to consumers in a "Back the Plaque" campaign.

Kessler Foundation leads the way in linking science and grantsmanship so that people with disabilities can lead more productive, independent and fulfilling lives.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, established in 1985, is one of the largest public charities supporting people with physical disabilities. The Foundation's goal is to improve the lives of people with physical disabilities by raising, managing and distributing resources to support Kessler Foundation Research Center, its cutting-edge research facility and by supporting the efforts of other non-profit organizations that serve individuals with disabilities. Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts a range of research programs designed to improve function and quality of life for persons with physical disabilities due to spinal cord and traumatic brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other neurological and orthopedic conditions. Kessler Foundation also supports programs that promote the employment of people with disabilities through its Program Center's "Transition to Work" Signature and Community Employment Grants. The Foundation's Special Initiative Grants also support educational programs like 'ThinkFirst,' an injury prevention program aimed at children and teens. Kessler Foundation has a full-time staff of 90 individuals, divided between two locations in West Orange, New Jersey.

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