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WID Programs

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 projects are described in more detail below.

Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative

WID developed the Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI), formerly the California Work Incentives Initiative (CWII), in 2000 to provide information on health coverage, work and benefits to youth and adults with disabilities in California and to develop community-based public policy recommendations.

Through Disability Benefits 101 Information Services, EDBI provides community outreach, training and web-based services, including one-on-one technical assistance at its website, Disability Benefits 101 (www.DB101.org). The site offers easy to understand, practical information on public and private benefits, employment services and other programs, as well as interactive benefits calculators for persons with disabilities who receive or are eligible for disability benefits in Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and New Jersey and recently launched a national veterans calculator (www.VB101.org).

In addition to its information services, EDBI also develops community-based public policy recommendations. As part of this effort, it staffs a statewide policy, education and discussion forum on health, work, benefits, and disability in California.

EDBI has received funding from the California Health Incentives Improvement Project, The California Endowment, the Social Security Administration, and individual training and event sponsors.

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

Access to Assets

Approximately 20% of the United States population lives with some level of disability, and people with disabilities are almost three times as likely to live in poverty than any other group. WID’s Access to Assets project opens doors for the disability community by promoting asset-building and financial literacy among people with disabilities. Asset building is an anti-poverty strategy helping low-income people move toward 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.

With support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Friedman Family Foundation and other generous funders, Access to Assets bridges the gap between the asset building and disability communities through the following services:

  • Training and Technical Assistance: Advise asset-building organizations how to include consumers with disabilities in their programs.

  • Disability Community Outreach: Inform disability organizations about available programs and relevant federal policy.

  • Policy Analysis: Develop and influence federal asset-building legislation conducive to the participation of people with disabilities.

  • Public Education: Produce monthly EQUITY e-newsletter. The newsletter includes articles by leaders in the field, program administrators, and participants in asset- building programs, helpful tips, answers to questions about disability issues, federal policy updates, and resources. Read current and past editions of EQUITY at: http://www.wid.org/equity

  • Information and Referral: Toll-free hotline serves individuals with disabilities seeking information on how to participate in poverty reduction programs.

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

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.

Funded by The California Wellness Foundation and building on other training resources, the MAP to Health Access Project is addressing the substantial health disparities for women with disabilities that result from medical providers’ lack of knowledge about their responsibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The project will empower disabled women and improve care for their unique health care needs by training them in self-advocacy skills to enable them to become educators and resource people to their own health providers and local health care organizations about these rights and the resources required to enact them. The MAP Project offers research, education, training, technical assistance and technical resources, and will develop a comprehensive training curriculum, including high-motivation learning tools and downloadable, web-based materials, so women with disabilities may learn about their right to accessible, quality health care as stipulated by federal law. WID will disseminate MAP for Health Access in English and Spanish throughout California to women’s health and disability community organizations.

Access to Medical Care: Adults with Physical Disabilities is a 20-minute video and training curriculum for physicians, dentists, nurses, and other medical staff about key issues that influence the quality of care in outpatient clinical settings. The video uses interviews with medical providers and a diverse group of people with disabilities to address cultural competence; access and communication issues in the clinic; common myths and stereotypes about disability that interfere with accurate assessment of patients; and barriers to health care delivery. The training curriculum offers case-based learning exercises and extensive in-depth reference materials about appropriate provision of care, specific skills to increase good communication and rapport, and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The curriculum emphasizes access and communication as the fundamental components in addressing health care disparities for people with disabilities.

WID also seeks to improve the quality and availability of long-term services for people with disabilities, such as Personal Assistance Services (often referred to as home health care) that help people with activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and eating. Such assistance can make the critical difference between independent living in the community or institutionalization.

Unfortunately, instances of physical or emotional abuse in such settings are alarmingly high. In response, WID is creating the Curriculum on Abuse Prevention and Empowerment (CAPE), a comprehensive training curriculum to educate service providers, people with disabilities and family members about abuse awareness and prevention strategies. Funded by the National Institute on Disability Rehabilitation and Research, CAPE explores fundamental issues of abuse, best-practices training approaches, and personal narratives of successful interventions. CAPE will be distributed nationally via CD Rom, in print or the web, in both English and Spanish.

For more information, visit the Health Access and Long Term Services section of the site, or contact Marsha Saxton, PhD, Senior Researcher.

Proyecto Visión

Proyecto Vision, the first national technical assistance center for Latinos with disabilities, was established to provide services to employers, service providers, and jobseekers to address barriers to Latinos effectively utilizing disability services and connecting to work. Since 2001, Proyecto Vision developed an infrastructure to provide positive employment outcomes for Latinos with disabilities by bridging the culture/language gap and creating culturally appropriate responses to the group’s particular needs and by providing role models and mentors. 

In 2008, Proyecto Vision shifted its focus to Latino and other youth with disabilities from underserved populations, ages 16 – 35, so they may successfully transition from school to higher education and attain sustainable independent living and employment outcomes. Funded by the AT&T Foundation, the Verizon Foundation and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, the program is using popular youth-friendly Internet sites to inspire our target population with short video clips of Success Stories and recruiting Latino and other youth with disabilities from underserved populations into our ongoing and highly successful Emerging Writers Program, part of the project’s leadership development initiative.

Proyecto Vision’s program includes a website (www.proyectovision.net) featuring news, resources and opportunities for scholarships/internships/jobs; an electronic newsletter that highlights success stories about Latinos and other youth with disabilities from diverse communities who found employment; a listserv that allows readers to interact with others facing similar issues; a Facebook page; and Success Story video clips on YouTube.

For more information, visit the Proyecto Visión section of the site, or contact WID here.

International Program

WID’s International Program builds leadership and capacity in disabled persons organizations (DPOs) in post conflict and developing countries to promote the 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, Nepal and various other countries.

Current Projects

Georgian Wheelchair Production Network

Funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and working in partnership with Whirlwind Wheelchair International (WWI), the Coalition for Independent Living in Georgia, along with their regional member organizations, the Association of Disabled Women and Mothers of Disabled Children in Zugdidi and the Association of Gori Disabled Club, and The Treatment and Educational Center of Child Neurology and Neurorehabilitation (CCNNR), WID is in the fourth year of a 5-year project in the Republic of Georgia to set up a sustainable wheelchair production and repair facility and a postural support seating and cushion service in Tbilisi; develop a mobility, self-care, and advocacy skills training system for men and women who use wheelchairs; and conduct advocacy, public education, and community accessibility barrier removal activities in Georgia. Most of the factory workers and advocacy team members are people with disabilities, and almost all are wheelchair users.

To date, the factory has produced and distributed more than 1500 low-cost, high-quality Whirlwind RoughRiderTM 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 so far.

Advocacy teams are conducting a wide range of activities including peer support, mobility and self-help skills workshops and camps for wheelchair users, and disability awareness and community access/barrier-removal trainings and roundtables to educate NGO staff, media professionals, teachers, government officials, lawyers, and architects about the need to improve community access. The 3 teams are also working to make key public buildings accessible by identifying and removing barriers, including building ramps and making bathrooms accessible. Sites include churches, sports facilities and recreation centers, schools, banks, museums, restaurants and shops.

A major goal of the project is to increase public awareness about the importance of an community accessibility and barrier-free environment, and the teams organize disability film exhibitions, media and poster competitions as well as produce public education videos, shown at film exhibitions and on Georgian national television, and public service announcements broadcast on local radio stations. The project has also hosted three national conferences on community accessibility for government officials and lawmakers, professionals, media, and persons with mobility impairments and their families to address issues, share lessons learned and to discuss strategies for implementation of legislation promoting a barrier free environment in Georgia. The most recent conference was attended by the new Prime Minister of Georgia, several other Ministers, the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, and the USAID Mission Director.

Justice and Dignity in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) Region

WID is part of the U.S. Department of State’s 3-year Justice and Dignity in the Middle East- North Africa (MENA) Region, a consortium of innovative, rights-based NGOs led by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) to conduct rapid response projects with marginalized populations in the MENA region. The first country and issue targeted for technical assistance by this project 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. The project began in late 2011 with an assessment of the three marginalized populations, including disability organizations in Morocco, to select appropriate project partners. In 2012, WID began providing training and technical assistance to develop the capacity of the Regional Union for Persons with Disabilities, located in Marrakech and also serving the Atlas Region, and worked with them to develop a strategic plan of action for their organization and to implement activities focused on inclusive education, which was identified by them as a priority issue.

WID is currently working with the Regional Union for Persons with Disabilities, Whirlwind Wheelchair International and the government of Morocco to develop a new project in Marrakech, a wheelchair production and distribution business, staffed primarily by Moroccans with disabilities.

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

Technology Policy

Society is increasingly dependent on information technology and social media for work and communication. People with disabilities are often not considered when equipment and services are designed and therefore are being left out due to inaccessible technology, further decreasing the capacity of this population to participate and contribute like their non-disabled peers.

WID’s Technology Program provides training and technical assistance to the information technology and telecommunications industry to make their products and services accessible, develops public policy recommendations, and identifies best practices. The program is currently funded by the California Emerging Technology Fund to identify, evaluate and recommend solutions to access barriers in websites, programs, facilities and communications of all of CETF’s grantees as well as to assist them to reach more people with disabilities in their programs and services.

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

Disaster Preparedness and Response

WID and the American Red Cross (ARC) launched an innovative national training, awareness and action program to help ARC staff and volunteers better serve people with disabilities during disasters.

Funded by a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the program is improving emergency preparedness and disaster response by ARC staff and volunteers for people with disabilities; increasing collaboration between the ARC and local community-based disability organizations; and increasing understanding of the needs of people with disabilities in disaster situations.

For more information, contact Thomas Foley, WID Deputy Director.

Training and Public Education

Corporations, government agencies and organizations hire WID's Training and Public Education Program to conduct trainings on disability awareness and etiquette, accommodating employees with disabilities, and increasing workplace diversity. WID's Training and Public Education Program also advises on access, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws and offers additional training packages on Access to Medical Care; Working Without Losing Healthcare 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.

Ever Widening Circle

WID’s annual gala event, Ever Widening Circle, celebrates disability culture and serves as a model for presenting entertainment that is accessible for all audiences. Past performances have included Geri Jewell, Josh Blue, The Blind Boys of Alabama and internationally renowned AXIS Dance Company, comprised of dancers with and without disabilities.

The success and visibility of Ever Widening Circle is the result of the strong collaborative ties between WID and its partners and sponsors. WID invites individuals and companies to join with us in our commitment to disability rights and support this gala event.

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