WID’s Current Initiatives: 2016

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–WID focuses cutting-edge issues facing people with disabilities. Though our work changes over time, it always remains directly connected to our mission of eliminating barriers to full social integration by increasing employment, economic security, and health care for persons with disabilities.

Current initiatives include:


Funded in part by a joint project with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), “EQUITY: Asset Building Strategies for People with Disabilities, A Guide to Financial Empowerment” is the first and only wealth-building book specifically targeted toward people with disabilities. With chapters ranging from credit and debt to home-ownership, small business development, and retirement savings, “EQUITY” provides an asset building overview with specific strategies and opportunities for people with disabilities to build a better financial future.

Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI)

Disability Benefits (DB101) helps people with disabilities and service providers understand the connections between work and benefits. DB101 will soon expand to serve residents with disabilities in eight states. Vets 101 offers free career planning tools and information services for veterans, their families, and their circles of support. This program is expanding to develop Housing Benefits 101 (HB101) and ABLE101 in 2016. EDBI’s training and information services build relationships with state partners that bring insight and rich background to WID’s policy initiatives.


The CareerACCESS policy initiative will reform the current Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) in order to significantly increase the employment rate of people with disabilities aged eighteen to thirty. Career ACCESS will establish pilot programs in up to five states. Because these programs will pivot on the idea that disability benefits are offsets to the high costs of disability rather than subsidies for the inability to work, they will provide required support and services for young adults to shape their careers while building assets and retaining disability benefits.


An outgrowth of WID’s work toward passage and now, implementation of the Achieving Better Life Experience Act (ABLE), ABLE101 will join WID’s cast of information tools and calculators. First introduced in 2006 and signed into law in December 2014, the ABLE Act will allow people with disabilities (with an onset of disability before age twenty-six) and their families the opportunity to create a tax-exempt savings account that can be used for maintaining health, independence, and quality of life without endangering government benefits.

Add Us In (AUI)

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), AUI is designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities within the small business community for individuals with disabilities. WID and our partners have worked to place many interns over the past four years at a variety of National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) small businesses.

Disability FEAST (Food Education, Access, Support, & Training)

A culmination of three years’ worth of research under the NEW DOOR project, Disability FEAST is an online cookbook+ for people with disabilities and seniors. WID’s Director of Research and Training, Marsha Saxton, Ph.D., and Projects Coordinator, Elizabeth Layman, stuffed the site with fifty easy and healthy recipes, plus dozens of tip sheets and links to external resources for shopping, cooking, and eating as a person with a disability.

Disaster Preparation

WID’s Deputy Director, Tom Foley, currently serves on the American Red Cross (ARC) National Diversity Advisory Council, and he has worked closely with ARC Disaster Response leaders. As a direct result of this work, ARC will include a disability education component to all California Disaster Institute trainings in 2016. Foley is also involved in training with the Functional Assessment Service Team (FAST), which focuses on serving people with disabilities during California-specific disasters.

New Earth Disability (NED)

As climate change moves forward, people with disabilities are arguably the single most vulnerable group worldwide; New Earth Disability (NED) addresses that threat. Started in late 2014 by Alex Ghenis, WID’s Policy and Research Specialist, NED investigates how people with disabilities will experience all aspects of climate change, such as extreme weather events, food insecurity, and climate-related migration. It also includes several recommendations for collective actions that will protect the disability community.

New Leaders Fellowship Initiative

This initiative is built on WID’s role as a host organization for fellows from the Mandela Washington Fellowship, the flagship program of the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI). Global Initiative Assistant Director, Kat Zigmont, oversees the fellows’ time at WID, facilitating opportunities to share best practices, to start dialogues about common issues around disability, and to view the bigger picture of disability worldwide.

Accessibility Consulting

Over the last six months, WID has secured several new clients and contracts in the financial, investment, technology, educational Software, and consulting arenas.

Banking/Financial Surveys

In collaboration with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), National Council on Independent Living (NCIL), and Associated Professional Rural Independent Living Centers (APRIL), our banking and financial services access research project is nearly complete. Research results will be shared at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) National Convention, California State University, Northridge (CSUN) Annual Convention, and Pacific Rim Conference in 2016.

Conference Accessibility Project (CAI)

In 2016, we plan to assist ten national conferences with a total attendance of more than 20,000 people. Our goal is to make these conferences accessible and relevant for people with disabilities, while also educating the conference organizers about disability barriers and accommodations.

Technology Usability Project (TUP)

This year, we will continue to focus on webpage accessibility, mobile phone and tablet usability, and signage review and evaluation in order to provide information to developers, distributors, and users and to further inform WID’s research on accessibility and usability of products.

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