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About WID

The mission of the World Institute on Disability (WID) in communities and nations worldwide is to eliminate barriers to full social integration and increase employment, economic security and health care for persons with disabilities. WID creates innovative programs and tools; conducts research, training, public education and advocacy campaigns; and provides technical assistance.

An internationally recognized public policy center founded in 1983 by leaders of the Independent Living Movement, WID's program work focuses on issues and problems that directly affect people’s ability to live full and independent lives. A majority of the Board and staff are persons with disabilities.

WID’s current programs are described in more detail below.

Center on Economic Growth

To address the disproportionate poverty that people with disabilities experience, WID’s Center on Economic Growth is committed to building better economic outcomes through benefits reform, increased employment, and financial planning opportunities. Current initiatives include:

Access to Assets:
Access to Assets (ATA) provides policy recommendations and technical assistance and develops individual wealth-building strategies. Asset building is an anti-poverty strategy helping low-income people move towards greater economic independence by saving and purchasing long-term assets. Building assets, as a complement to increasing income, provides the stability necessary to escape the cycle of poverty.

ATA supplies the link between the asset-building and disability communities by providing training and technical assistance; advising asset-building organizations on how to include consumers with disabilities in their programs; and informing disability organizations about available programs and relevant federal policy.

For more information, visit the Access to Assets section of the site, or contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director.

Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI):
WID’s Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI) develops community-based public policy recommendations on work and benefits at both state and national levels. EDBI produces real-time, online information services on health coverage, employment, and benefits for youth and adults with disabilities. Through Disability Benefits 101 Information Services, EDBI provides community outreach, training, and web-based services that support employment in six states. (

DB101 has easy to understand, practical information on public and private benefits, employment, and other resources. Each state’s website has interactive benefits and work calculators for job seekers and workers with disabilities who receive disability benefits. EDBI recently launched national online tools and information for veterans at Vets101. (

For more information, visit the Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative section of the site, or contact Bryon MacDonald, Program Director.

New Leaders Fellows and Internship Program

This program provides a limited number of promising young, disabled adults with opportunities for high-quality, challenging internship positions, working across multiple programmatic areas within WID. Intern positions afford valuable work experience critical to securing long-term employment. New Leaders Interns develop leadership skills, build their resumes, and become better informed about educational choices and career development, increasing the likelihood that they will successfully transition from school to work.

WID also hosts self-directed research fellows who are graduate students or postdocs with disabilities interested in conducting research that supports WID’s mission and is of value to the disability community.

Add Us In: Disability Inclusive Diversity Small Business Initiative

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), this initiative works to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities within the small business community for people with disabilities and veterans, especially those from historically excluded communities. Small business is the engine of U.S. economic growth, and the data on minority business growth clearly shows that minority-owned and operated firms are a significant contributor to long-term economic health. This initiative will create business engagement models embraced and sponsored by small and minority-owned business communities that can be replicated on a national scale. It will also build national and local networks of experts skilled in connecting small employers with an underutilized talent pool: people with disabilities.

Led by WID, the California Consortium includes the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC); the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR); the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC); and Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities (COSD). Focusing on companies based in California with 2 to 100 employees, the Consortium engages minority-focused small business associations with peer-to-peer presentations, discussions, and education to better understand the rationale and process for hiring youth and veterans with disabilities. The Consortium then links employers to recent graduates and college students, as well as veterans, for employment opportunities or works with the employers to provide paid internships.

(Preparation of this item was funded by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, Grant Number: OD-22554-11-75-4-6. This document does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.)

Health Access and Long Term Services

WID addresses health care disparities for people with disabilities by working to improve access to quality, culturally competent health care and services by conducting research, training health care professionals, and improving access to fitness, nutrition, and peer-support activities. These programs include:
  • New Door: A Collaborative Project on Fitness and Nutrition explores barriers to healthy lifestyles for people with disabilities.
  • Access to Medical Care: Adults with Physical Disabilities is a 20-minute video/DVD and training curriculum for physicians, dentists, nurses, and other medical staff about key issues that influence the quality of care in outpatient clinical settings.
  • CAPE: Curriculum on Abuse Prevention and Empowerment is a comprehensive training curriculum for consumers and trainers to educate services providers, people with disabilities, and family members about abuse awareness and prevention strategies, with a focus on self-protection for people with disabilities living independently. CAPE explores fundamental issues of abuse, best-practices training approaches, and personal stories. (
  • Medical Advocacy Project (MAP) for Health Access teaches disabled women to educate their providers about the substantial health disparities for women with disabilities. MAP trains disabled women in self-advocacy skills to enable them to become educators and resource people to their own health providers. (
For more information, visit the Health Access and Long Term Services section of the site, or contact Marsha Saxton, PhD, Director of Research and Training.

International Program

WID’s International Program builds leadership and capacity in disabled persons organizations (DPOs) in post-conflict and developing countries to promote full inclusion of people with disabilities into all aspects of society. WID provides training and technical assistance to DPOs to conduct effective disability advocacy, community barrier removal and public education campaigns; develop national policies; and create networks and national coalitions. During the last decade, WID has worked in Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Georgia, Iraq, Morocco, Russia, and Uzbekistan and has provided technical assistance to disability leaders in Bhutan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, and Nepal.

Georgian Wheelchair Production Network
Funded by USAID since 2009 and working in partnership with Whirlwind Wheelchair International, the Coalition for Independent Living in Georgia, along with their regional member organizations, and the Treatment and Educational Center of Child Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, WID is establishing a sustainable wheelchair production and repair facility and a postural support seating and cushion service; developing a mobility, self-care, and advocacy skills training system for wheelchair users; and conducting advocacy, public education, and community accessibility barrier removal activities in the Republic of Georgia. The majority of factory workers and advocacy team members are wheelchair users.

To date, the factory has produced and distributed more than 1,500 low-cost, high-quality Whirlwind RoughRider™ indoor-outdoor wheelchairs. Occupational therapists at the Children’s Center for Rehabilitation are being trained to prescribe postural seating and have fitted and provided supported seating for 125 children in wheelchairs.

Advocacy teams are conducting peer support, mobility, and self-help skills workshops for wheelchair users and disability awareness and community access/barrier-removal trainings to educate community leaders and government officials about the need to improve community access and to make key public buildings accessible by identifying and removing barriers.

Justice and Dignity in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) Region
WID is part of the U.S. Department of State’s three-year Justice and Dignity in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region, a consortium of innovative, rights-based non-government organizations led by the International Research and Exchanges Board to conduct rapid response projects with marginalized populations in the MENA region. The first country targeted for technical assistance was Morocco, focusing on increasing the capacity and engagement of three marginalized populations (women, Amazigh, and persons with disabilities) in elections and the political process. WID provided training and technical assistance to develop the capacity of the Regional Union for Persons with Disabilities, located in Marrakech and serving the Atlas Region, create a strategic plan of action for their organization, and implement activities focused on inclusive education, which the Regional Union identified as a priority issue.

For more information, visit the International Program section of the site, or contact Bruce Curtis, International Program Director.

Technology Policy Program

For most people, technology makes things easier, but for people with disabilities, technology makes things possible. WID believes that technology is a key component in independent living, education, employment, economic growth, and prosperity for people with disabilities. Policy and practice that foster accessible technology as tools for people with disabilities are essential to the achievement of social and economic equity.

The goal of the Technology Policy Program is for the market to offer more accessible and independently usable technology products. WID’s approach is to work collaboratively with industry to affect public policies that impact the technology industry and to influence, expand, and support those policies and programs.

For more information, visit the Technology Policy section of the site, or contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director.

Training and Public Education

Corporations, government agencies, and organizations hire WID to conduct trainings on disability awareness and etiquette; accommodating employees with disabilities; and increasing workplace diversity. WID’s Training, Technical Assistance, and Public Education Programs also advise on access, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other civil rights laws. WID offers additional training packages on Access to Medical Care; Working Without Losing Health Care or Other Needed Benefits; Making Asset Building Programs Accessible to People with Disabilities; How to Make Technology Accessible to People with Disabilities; and Including and Accommodating Persons with Disabilities in Disaster Preparedness and Response Efforts.

For more information, visit the Training section of the site, or contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director.
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