2017 Conference Accessibility Initiative

For the second consecutive year, the World Institute on Disability (WID) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are partnering with several civil rights and community development organizations to highlight conference accessibility.

Much like in 2016, this year, WID and JPMorgan Chase are achieving this by providing accessibility enhancements, such as sign language interpreters, open captioning, accessible transportation, rented mobility devices, sighted guides, scholarships for Disability Ambassadors, and a disability concierge desk, as well as support and training for conference organizers, hotel staff, and A/V teams.

WID is delighted to be partnering again with captioner, Deanna Baker, who helped us ensure thousands of people experienced open captioning for the first time in 2016!

Organizations Served in 2017

If you haven’t already, be sure to visit our main Conference Accessibility Initiative page to learn more about our initiative.

Photo Galleries by Conference

Center for Financial Services Innovation
June 14-16, 2017

National Council of La Raza
July 8-11, 2017

July 22-26, 2017

National Urban League
July 26-29, 2017

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute
September 11-12, 2017

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation
September 20-24, 2017

Independent Sector
October 25-27, 2017

NeighborWorks America
December 11-15, 2017

Photos coming soon

Main content end

Several painted tiles, pushed together to create a wall of artwork

AHCA Will Hurt People on Medicaid

WID News Analysis
May 22, 2017

AHCA Will Be Detrimental to People with Disabilities

Members of Congress recently passed the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) with the goal of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”). The proposed legislation, if enacted, would drastically harm Medicaid by reducing eligibility, creating work requirements, and moving from federal matching funds to “block grants” for funding. These changes will jeopardize the health care of people with disabilities across the country and reduce the quality of care for people who remain on Medicaid. The AHCA with all its Medicaid rules need to be stopped in its tracks – and the disability community should fight it nationwide.

Rolling Back the ACA’s Medicaid Expansion               

Medicaid is a health care program for poor, elderly and disabled residents that is run at the state level and uses a mix of state and federal funds to operate. It also is run using a mix of state and federal rules around eligibility, coverage and other means. Current rules allow Americans on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) due to disability and low income to receive full Medicaid coverage, and the ACA included a “Medicaid expansion” that has opened eligibility to people earning up to 133% of poverty, or around $16,080/year, in some states. People with disabilities have lower incomes and a higher rate of poverty than people without disabilities, and many may not receive SSI if they are doing some work or have a more limited disability, so a Medicaid expansion allows many in our community to have affordable health care and live safe lives.

Unfortunately, the AHCA would roll back this Medicaid expansion over the next several years and kick many people with low-to-moderate income off the program. Some research has found that people with lower income tend to work limited hours and are not eligible for employer health care, work with smaller companies that are not required to offer employer-covered health care, or otherwise work in industries that do not offer health care. This group also includes many people with disabilities, as they may have difficulty working full time or may have limited job opportunities. Medicaid provides vital health care for low-income people with disabilities in these situations – so reducing eligibility and kicking them off may eliminate their health care entirely. (This is especially true because under the AHCA, private insurers can charge much more for people with pre-existing conditions, so people who lose Medicaid likely won’t be able to afford private coverage at all.)

Work Requirements Target the Most Vulnerable

“Work requirements” will also create problems under the AHCA. The Affordable Care Act prohibited states from putting forward these requirements, which force Medicaid recipients who are deemed “able to work” to work a certain number of hours to keep their benefit. However, the AHCA will allow states to forego these requirements without any barriers. Research has shown that as of 2015, a full 59 % of Medicaid recipients who are able to work do, and 78% live in the household of somebody who does work. The rest may do informal and unpaid work, such as taking care of family members with disabilities or they may themselves have a disability that is not diagnosed or officially recorded and does prevent them from holding a regular job. People with disabilities likely make up a large share of Medicaid recipients who do not hold a job, so work requirements endanger this vital benefit.

A Bad Switch to Block Grants

The AHCA also changes how the federal government pays states from its current “matching funds” system over to block grants. Under the current rules, the federal government shares the costs with states: so for every $1 that states spend, the federal government reimburses them $0.50. Under block grants, though, the federal government gives states a fixed amount of money for their Medicaid program, and each state gets to decide how much extra it wants to spend, even if that is next-to-nothing. This is funded through a per capita system where funds are based or the number of Medicaid enrollees in each state. There are also block grants for certain populations or services which can vary state-by-state and be used to eliminate Medicaid coverage at many levels. These will combine to scale back the eligibility for Medicaid, as well as the services provided through Medicaid, as required and quality-of-care provisions will be taken away. This will affect all existing or potential Medicaid recipients in many states – and because people with disabilities have higher health-related costs, states may find ways to not cover vital health care services or just keep people with disabilities off the program entirely.

Speak Out Against the AHCA

The AHCA is extremely dangerous for people with disabilities. It jeopardizes the quality of coverage for our community and, for many of us, the ability to have health care at all. These three rules around Medicaid – rolling back the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, work requirements and block grants – will especially affect us, but there are plenty of others as well, such as the ability for insurance companies to charge more for pre-existing conditions, expanding the list of those conditions, and rolling back women’s health programs. However, AHCA has still not passed the Senate, and there are many opportunities to push back against its many problems. You can call your legislator, work with disability organizations, or even use social media to spread the word. So let’s fight for health care together and support our community’s right to health!

Main content end

Job Announcement: Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI) Manager


The World Institute on Disability (WID) is an internationally recognized nonprofit public policy center. WID’s mission, 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, public education, training, and advocacy campaigns; and provides technical assistance. WID brings a cross-disability perspective to the policy arena. Information on WID’s programs can be found at www.wid.org


The EDBI Division

WID’s Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI) is committed to building better economic outcomes through benefits analysis and reform and real-time information and decision-making tools to increase employment and financial planning opportunities.

EDBI Policy Initiative

EDBI develops community-based public policy recommendations on work and benefits at state and national levels aimed toward improving the employment rates of citizens with disabilities through high-impact systemic reform of the nation’s current social insurance infrastructure. The intent is to ensure a seamless, effective interconnectivity of publicly-financed supports to promote both work and health simultaneously.

Reports will be published annually outlining key policy recommendations, proposed action items and suggested timelines for policy-makers, focused on significantly improving the employment rate of citizens with disabilities through reformation of the nation’s current social insurance structure to ensure a seamless system that promotes work, preserves health care coverage, and sustains long-term supports necessary for optimal self-sufficiency.  This annual report will inform and enhance the national dialogue on federal entitlement reform.

DB101 Initiative

Through Disability Benefits 101 Information Services, EDBI provides community outreach, training, and web-based services that support employment in nine states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio and Kentucky (12/2017)) and produces real-time and interactive information services online that address health coverage, employment, and benefits for youth and adults with disabilities.

DB101 offers easy to understand, practical information on public and private benefits, employment services, and other programs for job seekers and workers with disabilities who use disability benefits to live independently. Each state’s website has a suite of interactive benefits and work calculators from our current menu: the Benefits to Work, School and Work, Medicaid Buy-In for the Working Disabled and the Plan for Achieving Self-Support Calculators. Each calculator allows users to explore the impact of different employment scenarios on their benefits and health care eligibility.

CareerACCESS Initiative

CareerACCESS is an alternative for SSI eligible youth, proposed by WID and partners Policy Works, NCIL and Abilicorp, that if adopted would enable them to escape poverty and dependence by offering them the following benefits:

  • Eligibility that does not require an “incapacity to work” test;
  • Adult coaching, counseling, and employment support services that will be managed through an Individualized Career Plan (ICP) to increase success;
  • Health care and independent living supports that remain available after typical SGA is reached; and,
  • SSI cash benefit retention and removal of asset limits (including ABLE accounts) providing an offset the cost of managing a disability while building a career.

The CareerACCESS goal is to make it easy for individuals with disabilities to work. A young disabled adult working with a CareerACCESS coach would develop an ICP to achieve personal and professional goals. CareerACCESS rules would allow increased earnings and remove asset limits. The goal is for CareerACCESS to be piloted in several states to serve individuals up to the age of 30.


WID is seeking a manager or director level leader for one of our major divisions, the Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI).  We are seeking candidates that have a deep understanding of public and private disability benefits, of policy development and analysis, of working toward consensus with disability justice leaders and other stakeholders, and with substantial program development and management experience.

The Employment and Disability Benefits Initiative (EDBI) manager will:

  • Cultivate and grow funding opportunities; research, solicit, produce and secure federal, state and/or private foundation contracts and grants.
  • Develop and maintain relationships with federal and state agencies, agency leaders and policy makers.
  • Develop, implement and direct the planning infrastructure; participate in relevant planning, operational, and budgeting processes.
  • In conjunction with collaborating partners, ensure production and maintenance of information services and activities.
  • Oversee activities and compliance of program subcontracts.
  • Participate in public policy development activities related to the Employment Disability Benefit Initiative.
  • Develop training and other curricula.
  • Conduct roundtable discussions or speak at conferences with employers, unions, civic and state agency leaders, and others.
  • Promote diverse consumer and community involvement and increase outreach to diverse target groups urban and rural.
  • Establish community advisory groups for product development as appropriate.


Full time, 40 hours a week


  • Knowledge of Social Security disability employment policy and the structure of work incentive policy.
  • Knowledge of national community networks and experience developing stakeholder relationships.
  • Knowledge of best practices in disability employment.
  • 5+ years’ progressive experience in advocacy and leading a program initiative.
  • Experience managing a project budget.
  • Experience using MS Office Suite and online webinar platforms
  • Willing to travel for work purposes
  • Comfortable with public speaking and conducting training presentations
  • Professional writing and oral communication skills
  • Works well independently, takes initiative, organized, detail oriented, and punctual
  • Quick learner and ability to problem solve
  • Knowledge of and/or personal experience with Independent Living history and philosophy


Executive Director


Full-time employee




Send Resume, Cover letter and References to: World Institute on Disability

EMAIL: kat@wid.org (WID acknowledges receipt of applications by email only)
Application Deadline:             Open until filled


  • Address reasonable accommodation requests for the application/interview process to kat@wid.org.
  • WID promotes a scent/chemical free environment. To support this effort, WID asks that all applicants refrain from wearing scented products while in its office.

All persons—including people with disabilities; elders; women; and people of racial and ethnic minority—are encouraged to apply.

Main content end

A woman stands at a desk, displaying books and DVD cases

WID’s Dr. Saxton Delivers Keynote at Sexual Violence Conference

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–On Saturday, April 8, WID’s Director of Research and Training, Dr. Marsha Saxton, was the keynote speaker for UC Berkeley’s second annual Sexual Violence Conference. Its theme was “Strength through Healing” and its goal was to break the silence and bring the voices of marginalized communities to the forefront of the conversation around sexual violence.

One of the senators from the ASUC, UC Berkeley’s student government, Rosa Kwak, hosted the event in Dwinelle Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. This conference, “by students and for students,” was filled with dialogue, learning, and deconstruction of sexual violence and discussion of intersectionalities. There were numerous workshops, and Senator Kwak and her team encouraged healing through coloring, poetry, writing, and reflection. There were several certified counselors from BAWAR (Bay Area Women Against Rape) available all day.

Dr. Saxton opened up the morning with a keynote about the intersectionality between disability and sexual violence. She spoke about her experience at the World Institute on Disability, especially in writing both Sticks and Stones: Disabled People’s Stories of Abuse, Defiance and Resilience and Curriculum on Abuse Prevention and Empowerment (CAPE).

A woman stands on stage with a wheel of power and control projected behind her
Marsha talks about the CAPE wheel of power and control | Photo by WID

She first generally described vulnerable populations, saying, “Women are taught to be passive, even in the face of assault.” She explained her experiences with a self-defense class in her younger years in Boston where she first learned how to scream “no” at attackers until it became second nature to her. She eased into disability-specific challenges, such as the fact that women with disabilities are assaulted at a rate of three times or more than women without disabilities.

Dr. Saxton also described the need for better sexual education for all people. From her work around Sticks and Stones, she has come to believe that people with disabilities may have heightened risks of abuse due to potentially confusing boundaries in interactions with caretakers and personal attendants. For this reason, she explained that children with disabilities would benefit from sexual education and might even need more sexual education than children without disabilities.

She also spoke about her experience as a professor at UC Berkeley in the Disability Studies Department and how much she learned about the issue on campus from her students and from online resources, such as http://survivorsupport.berkeley.edu/.

She ended her keynote by lifting up the marginalized, the victimized, the silenced constituencies and promising that each person could do his or her part in ending sexual violence. “We need to talk more with the men in our lives, peers, professors, coaches, faculty. We need allies!” she said to a round of applause.

Main content end

Image of scissors slicing through a $100 bill

Congress Agrees to a Spending Bill That Cuts AFI

WID News Analysis
May 5, 2017

On April 30, Congress put forward an omnibus spending bill that will keep the government funded through September 30, 2017 – and it has major implications for people with disabilities. Certain disability-related programs will remain funded, but others will see steep cuts or be eliminated entirely. It is important to understand these cuts and advocate for programs that support people with disabilities. This is vital for independence, well-being and financial success for our community.

A major initiative that was eliminated is the Assets for Independence (AFI) program. AFI has existed for almost 20 years and last year, provided $18.95 million toward Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), which support people with disabilities around independence and career goals. These federally funded IDAs provide an asset limit disregard, one of the few ways people on SSI can safely save more than $2,000 for their future. IDAs also provide matching funds. Thus, as account-holders invest in their own future (for every dollar that a person saves toward a goal for independence, such as purchasing a home or developing their careers), a government-supported organization will provide $1 or more to help in that process. These accounts are vital for many people with disabilities to build successful lives and independence – IDAs encourage account-holders to invest in their own futures and provide the resources to help them achieve their goals.

Unfortunately, eliminating the AFI program jeopardizes IDAs now and into the future. It will get rid of the opportunity for people with disabilities to open new IDAs, which will limit their personal investments. It also threatens existing IDAs. Accounts are run through organizations that receive government grants, and they may not be able to keep programs running going forward or provide future matching funds. The AFI program has already made a difference in the lives of thousands of Americans – getting rid of AFI and IDAs will eliminate the opportunity for more Americans to invest in their futures and jeopardizes those who have already started on that journey.

Disability advocates have been fighting to keep the AFI program alive for the past several years, and lawmakers have been talking about eliminating it for some time now. The disability efforts were largely successful. When lawmakers learned more about AFI and IDAs and realized their importance, they were more likely to support the programs. This cut, however, comes as a part of a larger $900 million cut to the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Education that is included in the omnibus spending bill through September. Many advocates are beginning to organize and push to restore funding for AFI, as well as build upon it even more. We look forward to seeing this progress moving forward.

Main content end

Wanted: User Testers

Are you a person with a disability who is interested in improving the accessibility of modern technology? If so, we would like to invite you to take our user testing survey so that you can start sharing your opinions and insights with WID.

Image of user tester reading a computer screen with ZoomText
An accessibility tester in the WID lab | Photo by WID

What Is User Testing?

User testing sessions consist of users testing a product or service (e.g. a website or phone app) for a WID client who is interested in improving accessibility. WID researchers observe and ask testers for feedback as the testers use the product or service in order to gauge the level of its accessibility.

The client may or may not be present during sessions. Sometimes, clients observe remotely via webcam or phone. Note: All video and audio recordings are used solely for research purposes.

Sessions run anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes, depending on which testing round you have signed up for.

Upon completion of testing sessions, testers are compensated for their time in the form of a gift card or a check. Testers are paid $50 for every 30 minutes of testing time.

Why Should You User Test?

You are the expert in your accessible technologies! When people with disabilities participate in usability sessions, it allows for a demonstration of how their accessible technologies work in tandem with the client’s products and services. This provides insights to companies about their product’s accessibility that they may not come across otherwise. This research helps improve existing products and web environments and facilitates future production of products and services that are made with people with disabilities in mind from the beginning.

Where Do We User Test?

Our user testing sessions take place in the WID office’s user testing lab, which is housed inside of the universally designed Ed Roberts Campus at 3075 Adeline St., Suite 155 in Berkeley, CA (above Ashby BART station).

Who Should User Test?

We encourage people of all types of disabilities to apply to be user testers. Varying levels of technological experience are welcome, though, it is generally helpful when testers are generally familiar with website and mobile web navigation.

Part of user testing is identifying inaccessible elements, which means sessions can sometimes be challenging. Therefore, we are also looking for tenacious people who are willing to push through any road bumps during testing sessions. The more inaccessible elements you find, the more educational the testing session is for the client and the easier it will be for them to implement changes to improve accessibility down the road.  On that note, it is important for testers to understand that usability sessions are about testing the product or service and not the user tester.

Are you ready to user test with WID? Please sign up via our survey. We look forward to working with you!

Main content end



Ed Roberts featured on Google for 2017 Ed Roberts Day

WID’s Current Initiatives: 2017

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–WID focuses on 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.

Proposed initiatives for 2017 include:


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 nine states as Kentucky is developed. 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. CareerACCESS continues to work toward establishing 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 critical issue forums. 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.

Disaster Preparation

As a direct result of WID’s work with the American Red Cross (ARC) and their diversity initiative, the ARC will include a disability education component in all California Disaster Institute training sessions in 2017. WID continues to be 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, 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) and the Community Solutions Program (CSP).  WID facilitates opportunities to share best practices, to start dialogues about common issues around disability, and to view the bigger picture of disability worldwide.

Accessibility Consulting

WID works to partner with the financial, investment, technology, educational Software, and consulting companies and organizations to expand their ability to provide accessible services to their clients and employees.

Conference Accessibility Initiative (CAI)

In 2017, we will assist nine national conferences with a total attendance of more than 10,000 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)

In 2017, we will continue to focus on website accessibility, mobile phone and tablet usability, and signage review and evaluation in order to provide information to developers, distributors, and users and in order to further inform WID’s research on accessibility and usability of products.

International Outreach Project

The International Outreach Project will work with NGOs to provide essential services in developing and conflict-ridden countries to build into NGO services policies and practices that include individuals with disabilities. WID focuses particularly on services related to leadership and management of Disabled Persons’ Organizations (DPOs), climate change, peace-building, and employment.

Main content end