Kessler Foundation Grants $2 Million in 2021 to Expand Employment Opportunities for People With Disabilities Striving to Work in the US

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Kessler Foundation approved approximately $2 million in grants in 2021 to support initiatives that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. The Foundation allocated funding for three categories: Foundation-Directed Grants, Community Employment Grants, and Special Initiative Grants. Since 2005, the Foundation’s Center for Grantmaking has awarded more than $50 million to nonprofit programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities striving to work, adding diversity to American workplaces, and boosting productivity.

PREDICTIONS SERIES 2022

The Foundation’s contributions have led to improved job skills and paid employment for thousands of individuals with disabilities, according to Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president for grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “Our grants support inventive initiatives that open new pathways to increasing inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace,” she added.

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Foundation-Directed Grants

More than $600,000 in Foundation-Directed Grants—the Foundation’s largest awards—have been conferred to launch five initiatives in 2021, providing funding for projects targeting unemployment and other disability issues identified by the Foundation and collaborating agencies, often distinguished by active involvement of Foundation staff. This year’s grantees plan to educate human resource professionals to effectively recruit qualified hires with disabilities; analyze employment statistics for people with and without disabilities and share findings with the public; conduct a survey identifying changes in effectiveness of employment practices to support workers with disabilities; and explore hiring biases against individuals with disabilities in data collected by artificial intelligence candidate filters. “These grants will go a long way to help ensure that jobseekers with disabilities are considered among candidates for available job opportunities today and in the future,” said Katz.

Community Employment Grants

In 2021, the Foundation also distributed almost $1 million in Community Employment Grants for 28 programs initiated by nonprofit organizations that serve New Jersey residents with disabilities. These grants fund a range of on-site and virtual employment-related supports and workforce development. The initiatives will help individuals with disabilities acquire job development skills, work-readiness, and vocational training, as well as expand services for young adults who are transitioning from school to the workplace.

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Special Initiative Grants

Special Initiative Grants support a variety of efforts in New Jersey to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Foundation distributed almost $200,000 to fund proposals that foster independence, communication skill-building, inclusiveness, and physical/emotional wellness. Programs include interactive eye/hand and mind stimulation through music therapies, a sleepaway summer camp experience, sports demonstrations, a sensory garden and horticulture activities, installation of an all-inclusive playground, adaptive horseback riding lessons, and leadership training for young people with disabilities, to name a few.

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