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Jul 31, 2023 | Insights

Accessibility for All: Programs Raising Awareness for People with Disabilities

Happy Disability Pride Month! This celebration was established in commemoration of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The landmark bill expanded the civil rights of people with disabilities ensuring comprehensive protection against discrimination by law. The bill also reshaped the country by mandating accessibility in public spaces for the first time. Thanks to the ADA, accessibility measures such as entry ramps, automatic doors, Braille signs, and curb cuts make it easier for the more than 61 million Americans living with disabilities to participate fully in society.

The first Disability Pride Day was held in Boston in 1990. Although celebrations soon spread to other cities, it wasn’t until 2015 that the full month of July was designated as Disability Pride Month, in New York City in celebration of the ADA’s 25th anniversary. Today, we observe Disability Pride Month to bring visibility to and spread awareness about the lives of those living with a disability, while advocating for inclusion, and accessibility in our world. During this month, allies and people living with disabilities celebrate disability culture along with fighting to end the stigma surrounding people with disabilities. In this blog, we’re highlighting some of the organizations advancing awareness of people living with a disability and sharing resources and tools that one can use in pursuit of that goal.

Organizations Supporting PEople with disabilities

Abilities Dance

Ellice Patterson founded Abilities Dance to use dance as a tool for intersectional disability rights. The group uses dance to create a place of inclusion for all experiences and to honor the intersectional identities of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people with disability. We are proud to work with her organization as part of the Barr Foundation’s Powering Cultural Futures initiative, a six-year grant to build the capacity of BIPOC arts and communities in Massachusetts. Ellice and her organization have also been active in supporting local laws expanding access along with organizations like the Disability Policy Consortium below. Visit Abilities Dance.

Adaptive Sports New England

The mission of Adaptive Sports New England is to increase participation in sports among youth and young adults who have visual or mobility impairments. The organization collaborates with many adaptive-specific and mainstream sports programs, adding value through their focus on raising awareness, increasing participation, and building capacity so that more youth and young adults with visual or mobility disabilities can access sports closer to home. Visit Adaptive Sports New England.

Community Access to the Arts

Community Access to the Arts (CATA) nurtures and celebrates the creativity of people with disabilities. Through arts workshops in painting, dance, theater, singing, creative writing, and more, CATA helps their artists tap into their potential. CATA also holds public events including an annual performance and year-round arts exhibits. Visit Community Access to the Arts.

Disability Inclusion Fund

The Disability Inclusion Fund (DIF) at Borealis supports U.S. groups run by and for people with disabilities leading transformational change. Its principles and practices draw from the disability justice movement and aim to build power and a society that is free of ableism and other discriminatory barriers. The DIF is committed to disability justice movement-aligned funding including a participatory grantmaking process that involves members of the disability community to guide funding decisions. Visit the Disability Inclusion Fund.

Disability Policy Consortium

The Disability Policy Consortium’s (DPC) credo is “About Us, By Us”: the belief that when decisions are made about people with disabilities, people with disabilities must play a lead role in making them. Their mission is to ensure the voice of people with disabilities is heard on key issues, to support the health of our community through participatory research and expert policy analysis, and to empower grassroots disability leaders to transform their communities.

The top policy priorities of the DPC in 2023 include an act to expand wheelchair warranty protections, an act to protect the homes of seniors and disabled people on MassHealth, calls for increased funding for alternative housing programs, and more. Read their full list of legislative and budget priorities for Massachusetts and visit the Disability Policy Consortium.

Disability Rights Fund

The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) is a grantmaking collaborative between donors and the global disability rights community that provides financial and technical resources to organizations of persons with disabilities to advocate for equal rights and full participation in society. Since 2008, DRF and its sister organization, the Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRAF), have funded organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) across the developing world – primarily in Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Caribbean – to participate in ratification, implementation, and monitoring of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Visit Disability Rights Fund.

Partners for Youth with Disabilities

Partners for Youth with Disabilities strives to create a world where young people with disabilities will be able to live with dignity and pride in who they are, and to lead self-determined lives filled with purpose. To make this happen, they build the skills and abilities of young people with disabilities, and increase the inclusivity of workplaces, organizations, and communities. Visit Partners for Youth with Disabilities.

Think Outside the Vox

Think Outside the Vox closes the gap between Deaf/Disabled Patrons, BIPOC/marginalized/disabled access providers and arts organizations, who are largely inaccessible. They provide arts access consulting and training that centers anti-ableist/antiracist disability culture to arts institutions. Their work focuses on expanding the breadth and scope of accessible programming by facilitating hiring of disabled and marginalized artists and experts. Visit Think Outside the Vox.

Resources and Tools

Disability Justice: An Audit Tool

Have you ever wondered how your organization is doing at practicing disability justice? “Disability Justice: An Audit Tool” is aimed at helping Black, Indigenous and POC-led organizations (that are not primarily focused around disability) examine where they’re at in practicing disability justice, and where they want to learn and grow. It includes questions for self-assessment, links to access tools, organizational stories and more. Learn about Disability Justice: An Audit Tool.

Easterseals Massachusetts Assistive Technology Regional Center

MassMATCH Assistive Technology Regional Centers hosted by Easterseals are lending libraries of Assistive Technology. They offer device demonstrations at two locations and have an extensive lending library of devices, which includes equipment, software, and toys, from low-tech to high-tech solutions. Visit the Boston location in the NonProfit Center at 89 South Street. Visit Easterseals Massachusetts Assistive Technology Regional Center.

National Center for Accessible Media

For over two decades, the National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM) has been a national leader in making digital media accessible for people with disabilities. The team in NCAM—with over 150 years of combined experience in accessibility—are pioneers, inventors, and problem-solvers, frequently anticipating and creating solutions for tomorrow’s technology challenges. Some of the center’s most popular tools include free software to filmmakers and videographers to include captions and audio-descriptive tracks. Visit the National Center for Accessible Media.

New England ADA Center

The New England ADA Center is one of 10 regional ADA Centers comprising the ADA National Network.  Since 1991, the ADA National Network has provided information, guidance and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), tailored to meet the needs of business, government and individuals at local, regional and national levels. Their newsletter is a great resource on the latest legal issues currently in the courts. Visit the New England ADA Center.

Partnering Across the Sector

We are honored to be a partner to organizations throughout the region that advocate for and support the ability for people living with disabilities to fully participate in society, during Disability Pride Month and beyond. Increasing accessibility and ending the stigma around disabilities is key to achieving equity, one of the values which drives everything we do at TSNE. Whether it is capacity building, property management, consulting, or training, we are focused on embedding fairness and equal access in all that we do.

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