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Giving Guide: Disability Pride Month

Disability is a rich part of human diversity, something nearly all of us will live with at some point in our lives, and an identity that can shape how we experience the world. The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in July of 1990 prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities. As our society works to become more inclusive and accessible, you too can help raise awareness while honoring the achievements and advancing the rights of people with disabilities.  

Expanding Work Access 

There are over one million people with disabilities living in New York City. Access to information, social supports, and meaningful job and educational opportunities can help all New Yorkers thrive. But people with disabilities can encounter physical barriers, such as a lack of accessible workplaces, and systemic barriers, such as limited access to education and training. And biases and misconceptions about disabled people’s ability to work and participate in or contribute to their communities can lead to a dearth of meaningful work or social opportunities.   

Based in Staten Island, City Access New York serves more than 200 people with disabilities each year. It offers pre-vocational training, supported employment, internships, and job placements. Its Career Discovery Project places high school and college students with visual disabilities into paid internships, which can help create a route into competitive employment for young people and encourage employers to create more inclusive workplaces. 

Joyeux Foundation U.S. operates Café Joyeux, a chain of nonprofit cafes that train and employ individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities across Europe and, with The Trust’s support, at its first U.S. café, located in Midtown East in New York City. (It’s just around the corner from our NYC office—we recommend stopping for a treat if you’re in the neighborhood!) Employees train at the agency’s vocational school, which is supported by profits generated by the cafes and coffee sales.  

 Kindred Enterprises (also known as Kindred Bakery BK) is a community bakery and training program. Its cofounders, who are the parents of a child with autism spectrum disorder, saw a dearth of training programs for low-income young people with disabilities. The program operates out of a shared industrial kitchen and food market in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where trained instructors offer inclusive baking and culinary arts classes to students. 

Supporting Families 

Families and caregivers of people with disabilities balance tremendous responsibilities: they must navigate complicated special education and disability service systems, manage medical and therapeutic needs, and identify opportunities to socialize and have fun. Low-income families often cannot pay for support navigating these systems or procuring services, and many also face language and cultural barriers. As a result, people with disabilities from low-income and immigrant communities disproportionately go without needed support services. Nonprofits, particularly those that are neighborhood-based and work with specific ethnic communities, can help people with disabilities and their families identify and secure quality education and support services, develop their advocacy skills, and connect with and learn from other families.  

Community Inclusion and Development Alliance (CIDA) was originally founded as a support group for Korean American parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and now serves as a disability resource center for Asian American families in Queens and throughout the city. It offers programs in English, Korean, and Chinese that provide advocacy, community programs, workforce development projects, and parent training and support to more than 700 families each year. 

A Caribbean immigrant who worked in special education cofounded My Time, Inc., in response to witnessing the frustration of parents trying to attain services for their children. The organization supports, educates, and empowers families living in under-resourced Brooklyn communities in East Flatbush, Flatbush, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, and Canarsie, offering parent support groups, educational workshops, and monthly social activities. 

WESTCHESTER & NYC: VISIONS/Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired provides free rehabilitation, recreation, and social services to blind and visually impaired people and their families. It operates the Center on Blindness, a training and vision rehabilitation facility in the Hudson Valley that helps people with blindness develop the skills to become independent. The agency’s holistic support helps families become full partners in their family members’ rehabilitative training and strengthens their ability to advocate for their needs. 

Cultivating Accessible Neighborhoods 

While progress has been made, people with disabilities still confront barriers to full participation in society. These nonprofits promote policy changes and service improvements—including in housing, transportation, and access to cultural institutions—to help ensure our communities are safer, more inclusive, and more accessible for people with disabilities.  

The Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York helps clients access public benefits, obtain employment, secure housing, and meet other critical needs. It also offers training on disability awareness and competency for corporations, government offices, and other nonprofits. Its advocacy efforts have persuaded the city to make improvements to the subway and paratransit systems, install accessible pedestrian signals, and ensure public programs are accessible to people with visual disabilities.  

The Fair Housing Justice Center identifies, documents, and works to eliminate systemic housing discrimination. It assists with individual complaints, fights housing discrimination, educates the public on fair housing rights, helps pay for architectural assessments and accessibility modifications for homes, and advocates for more accessible housing for people with disabilities. 

LONG ISLAND: Long Island Children’s Museum hosts free interactive exhibits, live theater, and community arts programs that serve children of all ages, with a special focus on families from low-income communities. With The Trust’s support, Long Island Children’s Museum also provides STEM education programs for students with disabilities and professional development opportunities for special education teachers. 

This list is not exhaustive. There are many incredible nonprofits helping make our region a better place for all; we seek to highlight a few that may not be on your radar, but please reach out to our philanthropic advising department at [email protected] if you would like recommendations tailored to your charitable goals.