Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Richard Rueda

NeighborWorks America National Training Institute 2019

by Richard Rueda

My name is Richard Rueda and I recently participated as a Disability Ambassador with the World Institute on Disability (WID), attending the NeighborWorks National Training Institute (NTI) New Orleans 2019 Conference. I have spent the past two decades working in the field of Vocational Counseling and nonprofit leadership, specifically within the blind and disabled community. My passion is working with blind and disabled Transition-age young adults, guiding them towards equitable advantages through seeking higher education, sustainable competitive employment, and all-around self-sufficiency. In 2016, my career led me to Society for the Blind locally in Sacramento, where I have worked in developing CareersPLUS, a career exploration program providing guidance and resources for the community.

I am honored to have been accepted to attend and participate in the NeighborWorks Training Institute.  In the six days spent among WID Disability Ambassadors and staff, and thousands of conference attendees from across the United States, opportunities were afforded to attend training sessions on leadership development, community development, and several other amazing offerings.

3 people smiling, left to right: a black woman sitting in a mobility scooter, a white man standing with his white cane, and a white genderqueer person standing.
Disability Ambassadors Brenda and Richard smile in front of the WID Disability Concierge Desk with WID staff member Moya.

A majority of the training courses in my track were held at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel and as a whole, the conference location was extremely accessible. From hotel access as a blind person, to getting around town was exceptionally easy. Specifically, in terms of the conference itself, course materials were issued in advance in electronic format and course instructors made sure that any PowerPoint and slide presentations were described in detail for those of us who cannot see the in-class presentation. In terms of event registration and offered networking sessions, NTI staff and fellow attendees assisted me in navigating through the registration line, meeting others, and finding refreshments while networking.

A majority of the week’s courses focused upon affordable housing and community development. As it turns out, having disability representation at the conference helps keep this topic at the forefront, and a topic of mainstream discussion. Where disability may be referenced as a passing thought or given a quick snapshot comment from instructors, Ambassadors such as myself can interject thoughtful perspective on disability as it pertains to a growing number of the population, as humans live longer than ever before. From participation in 2 NTI events in 2018 and 2019, I did notice from course instructors that they began to change the narrative from ‘handicapped” and “special needs” to “people/persons with disabilities”.

Attending the 2019 New Orleans NeighborWorks training provided me with the tools, advocacy, networking, and overall ongoing professional development needed to be an effective leader in my community. Meeting people from all walks of life, cultures, and communities also allows for growth and to understand the challenges and differences that our neighbors from across the country share and work through. A lot of our course work included small group breakout sessions, and I believe some of the best learning came from these sessions.

The World Institute on Disability and JPMorgan Chase should be proud of the end roads both are progressively contributing to the importance of conferences and to society as a whole. While there will always be necessary tweaks to make conferences and learning experiences better and more accessible, there is a lot to be proud of and thankful for. There are countless persons with disabilities old and young who are forever indebted to this selfless effort.

A big heartfelt thank you to JP Morgan Chase, NeighborWorks, the good friendly people of New Orleans, and naturally WID’s team and their tireless staff on the ground who made the experience all that more amazing.

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019, follow either link below:

Melissa Mitchell’s NeighborWorks blog
Brenda Muhammad’s NeighborWorks blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, return to the Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 main page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Brenda Muhammad

by Brenda Muhammad

Greetings. I’m Brenda Billins Muhammad, the Executive Director of Focusing Our Resources for Community Enlightenment (FORCE), which is a small nonprofit organization in Syracuse, NY. At FORCE, we are all volunteers and have no paid staff.   We donate our time with the hopes of improving our community, with programming such as Disaster Preparedness workshops, First Aid and CPR training/demos, SafeSitter babysitter training, Community Conversations, and by partnering with other organizations to address community needs.

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as a 2019 NeighborWorks Disability Ambassador for the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JPMorgan Chase and the World Institute on Disability (WID). With the generous support of JPMorgan Chase and WID, I was able to attend the NeighborWorks Training Institute (NTI) in New Orleans, Louisiana. With an operating budget under $5,000.00 annually, I would not have been able to attend NTI without them. The accessibility initiative removed financial barriers by providing me with conference registration, lodging, and travel. I struggle with mobility issues, and their rental mobility scooter allowed me to navigate between the two hotels.  The scooter was available to me from the moment I checked in until the moment that I checked out. The Conference Accessibility Initiative also provides sign language interpreters, closed captioning, screen readers, mobility devices, and other assistance to help people with disabilities have access at conferences.

3 people smiling, left to right: a black woman sitting in a mobility scooter, a white man standing with his white cane, and a white genderqueer person standing.
Disability Ambassadors Brenda and Richard smile in front of the WID Disability Concierge Desk with WID staff member Moya.

I attended two classes during the NeighborWorks Training Institute: (1) HO200 Ready, Set, Prep: Tackling the HUD Counselor Exam Step by Step; and (2) HO210 Practice, Study, Success: Test Strategies for HUD’s Counselor Certification Exam. Over the course of the week, I was able to learn about the six counseling areas that comprise the exam: Financial Management, Housing Affordability, Fair Housing, Homeownership, Avoiding Foreclosure, and Tenancy. The classes will be beneficial to me both personally and professionally.

Syracuse, NY has been rated with one of the highest poverty rates in the country. It is suffering with a housing crisis that includes problems with accessibility, affordability, gentrification, and poor housing stock. The city is preparing to dismantle Interstate 81, an aging highway viaduct, which will require 4,000 public housing residents to relocate. Finding affordable replacement housing for these residents will be difficult, much like finding a needle within a haystack. It will be even harder to find accessible housing for a person with a disability, who not only faces physical barriers such as the presence of steps and narrow doorways, but they may also face biases and discrimination from landlords.

I would like FORCE to be able to play an active role in meeting the impending need for housing counseling services that will descend upon the City of Syracuse. By attending the classes, I feel confident that I should take the HUD Counselor Certification Exam and make strides to align our nonprofit with a HUD Certified agency to help serve our community in any way possible.

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019, follow either link below:

Melissa Mitchell’s NeighborWorks blog
Richard Rueda’s NeighborWorks blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, return to the Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 main page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Melissa Mitchell

NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019

by Melissa Mitchell

I was pleased to be invited back to the NeighborWorks National Training Institute (NTI) this year as a part of the Disability Ambassador program with the World Institute on Disability (WID). My name is Melissa Mitchell, and I work as a service dog trainer in Washington state.

I chose to apply to be an ambassador for WID at NeighborWorks after my experience moving to take my current position. I began looking for housing three months before I was supposed to move, so I was sure I would find something that would be accessible to me as a full-time power wheelchair user. As my move date approached and I still did not have housing, I held out hope that of course something had to become available. After all, my accessibility needs are fairly simple: a reasonably open floor plan with doorways and hallways wide enough for my wheelchair to fit through, along with the addition of simple safety bars in the bathroom. Little did I realize, as I shared with one of my NeighborWorks lunch companions, that less than 1% of all available rental housing meets even these minimal accessibility needs.

A white woman using a power wheelchair smiles with her mobility service dog, a Golden Retriever
Disability Ambassador Melissa visits the WID Disability Concierge Desk with her service dog, Tanner.

I ended up living in a hotel for a month while starting my new job and placed my things in storage. I finally thought I had found a place that met these very minimal accessibility needs –  a first-floor apartment, with no more than two steps to entry as per my directions. I called the movers and arranged to have my stuff delivered along with myself – only to be surprised on arrival with 5 very steep stairs to the front door, and no other options for entering or exiting the apartment. I did my best to try to make it work for about two weeks, my friends coming over to help me in and out while I tried to work with the landlord to get an appropriate ramp. Long story short, I ended up moving out of that apartment and moving in with friends for a little over two months, while I continued my search for an appropriate and safe place to live.

My story illustrates the need in affordable housing to plan for not only fully ADA accessible units, but for a minimum level of visit-ability, featuring entries and hallways usable by people using mobility equipment, such as myself. By doing this, we can not only increase the availability of accessible housing, but also increase the accessibility of housing for people as they age, whether they are currently experiencing disability or not. It would also create the ability for people with disabilities to visit with their friends and family in their homes, rather than always having to have people go to the home of the person with a disability.

NeighborWorks and the World Institute on Disability made possible my participation in this training by providing me with accessible accommodations at the hotel. For me, that included a wheelchair-accessible hotel with an ADA-accessible hotel room, complete with roll-in shower and automatic doors. They also helped me arrange accessible transportation options to and from the hotel, and WID staff were educated on providing assistance in a respectful and efficient manner.

Attending the NeighborWorks training offered me the opportunity to take classes in nonprofit communications, donor relations, and the functional use of social media in these domains. I will take the knowledge that I learned at NTI and share it with others within my organization to improve our communications overall, with particular focus on bringing our communications up-to-date through the use of social media. I learned that this helps our donors feel like the vital part of our organization that they indeed are. NeighborWorks’ partnership with the Conference Accessibility Initiative by JP Morgan Chase and the World Institute on Disability ensures that the perspectives of the disability community were represented in body, mind, and voice, allowing for a real-time sharing of knowledge and resources that will benefit all programs, projects, and neighborhoods represented at NTI. Thanks to the focus on accessibility and the purposeful inclusion of people with disabilities, I was able to access knowledge and experiences that I would not typically have access to. I was able to share my knowledge and resources as it relates to disability resources and programs that may have complimentary missions and purposes to those of NeighborWorks programs. This allows all of the programs to better fulfill their missions and include all members of their community.

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at NeighborWorks Training Institute 2019, follow either link below:

Brenda Muhammad’s NeighborWorks blog
Richard Rueda’s NeighborWorks blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, return to our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 main page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Danielle Anderson

Financial Health Network EMERGE 2019 – “The Aging & Disability Connection at Emerge”

by Danielle Anderson

My name is Dani Anderson, I am the Executive Director of the Independent Living Resource Center (ILRC), serving Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, and I live in Camarillo, California. This was my first time attending a conference about financial health/empowerment. The location was beautiful! I use a power wheelchair, so as far as accommodations; I requested an accessible room with a roll in shower. The room was set up perfectly, and the grounds were impressively accessible. In the conference area, there were always staff and friendly attendees available to assist me with
doors and most importantly, getting coffee!

This year’s conference had a track about financial health/empowerment focused on the Aging population. I found this to be very beneficial to the attendees. I work regularly on programs aimed at bridging the gaps between the Aging and Disability communities; many of the services and struggles are the same. My understanding is that Aging was a new focus for the conference this year. In conversations I had, there was a positive response to emphasizing Disability in the same way next year. It is important to keep Disability relevant in these financial health/empowerment conversations in order to embark on new and fresh ideas for our Disability community, which consists of a majority of individuals falling into the Low Moderate Income (LMI) category. Those in this category are commonly not there by choice, and financial programs focused on Disability can have a huge impact on increasing the integration of people with disabilities in important components of life.

4 people and a service dog pose in front of WID table
WID staff Tom and Jessica with two Disability Ambassadors, Danielle and Harry at the Disability Concierge Desk.

For me, the networking and relationship building at the conference benefited most, I think our presence was powerful for the other attendees. My colleague and I were the only two wheelchair users there, and I think that encouraged other attendees to strike up conversations with us and listen to our new perspectives. With continued disability involvement year round, I believe the Conference Accessibility Initiative can assist in big changes, benefiting the largest minority group in the United States by helping us feel cared about and equal in the financial sector.

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at Emerge 2019, follow either link below:

Harry Hebeler’s Emerge blog
Christina Mills’ Emerge blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Christina Mills

Financial Health Network EMERGE 2019 – “Emerged in Financial Health”

by Christina Mills

My name is Christina Mills. I am the Executive Director of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers (CFILC). Our office is based in Sacramento, California. We are a disability rights organization focused on building the capacity of Independent Living Centers across the state that provide advocacy support and direct services to people with all types of disabilities.

As an Executive Director, I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my knowledge and provide additional benefits to both my members and the disability community. The Emerge Conference piqued my interest for several reasons. In a post-recession era, I am committed to building CFILC’s financial health as an organization, but also to creating and leveraging my partnerships to better serve individuals with disabilities who are among the most vulnerable population when it comes to securing financial equity. Participating in the Emerge Conference allowed me to step out of my day-to-day comfort zone to see how other companies are developing financial health among their own employees and communities. The conference speakers, workshop sessions, and materials were not only helpful, but also energizing.

Two women smiling
Disability Ambassadors Danielle Anderson (left) and Christina Mills (right) at Emerge.

National Public Radio (NPR) recently showcased a segment on people with disabilities replacing public benefits with paychecks. Twenty-nine years post Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the disability community is still working tirelessly to leverage Title II of the ADA to increase employment rates, which we hope equals better financial health, for people with disabilities across our state and country. For me, the NPR segment directly related to what I learned at Emerge. While we all have deliverables and specific goals to maintain our companies, we also need to think more broadly about how the work we are already doing can be used to incorporate and build financial health.

Disability is a lifespan issue. You can be born with a disability, acquire a disability, or age into a disability before you die. Twenty-five percent of the population has a disability, and that’s only based on individuals who identify. Everyone knows someone who has a disability. We as individuals with disabilities are one of the most significantly marginalized populations who are also a part of every other kind of racial, cultural, age, gender, and religious population. Prioritizing people with disabilities will increase financial health for all communities. Building partnerships with the companies who are already working to build financial health is how I believe we can make a difference together that will positively impact the disability community.

I applaud JP Morgan Chase for partnering with the World Institute on Disability to bring together the business and disability communities. The Conference Accessibility Initiative is innovative and needed. Being able to educate each other on programmatic and physical access while also engaging disability leaders in ground breaking business discussions that we have the opportunity to influence has potential to impact a much larger, diverse population. JP Morgan Chase’s commitment to inclusion is impactful and will continue to make a difference as we work to build financial health opportunities for people with disabilities.

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at Emerge 2019, follow either link below:

Harry Hebeler’s Emerge blog
Danielle Anderson’s Emerge blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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Podium and speech bubble with text: Conference Access Blogs

Conference Access Blogs: Harry Hebeler

Financial Health Network EMERGE 2019 – “Re-Emerging”

by Harry Hebeler

First of all, I’d like to extend a big thanks to my fellow disability ambassadors, The World Institute on Disability team, and JP Morgan Chase for the opportunity to once again participate in Emerge! This is my second year in a row and I remain incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to learn and participate. The accommodations provided were once again exemplary. They allowed me and helped me to experience the conference fully. The WID team’s ability to adjust to the disability ambassadors needs made me feel welcome and appreciated! I had been looking forward to going to Emerge 2019 in Arizona since flying home from 2018’s conference, and Scottsdale did not disappoint!

This year, I have been trying to spend less time in the woods fighting fires, and more time pursuing my passion for personal finance and financial inclusion. Emerge 2019 was simply the best way to start this new journey. The networking opportunities, connections made, and ideas discussed deeply inspired me. Many of my conversations at the conference provided some much needed encouragement and gave me insight into my next steps. It was fantastic to see old friends, continue talking about new ideas and networking with the brilliant cast of people that are involved in putting on Emerge. Last year I wrote about a great dinner I had with Nate Caldwell (MX) and Andrea Galvez (CFSI). One year later I found myself reconnecting with Nate and Andrea, over another awesome meal, and getting both a chance to hear about their lives but also to see and reflect on my own maturation and progress.

5 people pose together on stone pathway
WID’s Disability Ambassadors at dinner with Nate Caldwell (MX) and Andrea Galvez (Financial Health Network)

What I perhaps love most about Emerge is it represents a community of people committed to attacking difficult questions from different angels. For example, a conversation I had with Dani, a fellow Disability Ambassador, and Stephani R. Jones from JP Morgan Chase, focused on the decrease of bank tellers and the rise of new accessibility challenges that come with full-service ATMs and mobile apps. Simply put, not everyone has the ability to use mobile apps or ATMs to their full potential, due to access needs for their disabilities not being considered in the design. The conversation led to the three of us spending the rest of the day bouncing ideas off of one another and sharing our stories. I want to extend another big thank you to Stephani R. Jones from JP Morgan Chase for her words of wisdom and interest in disability.

When reflecting on this experience, I came across this quote in my notebook from the conference that I think speaks directly to what both Emerge and the Conference Accessibility Initiative are trying to do: “You have to meet people where they are, and do things that are different, and let people see that we are people too.” At Emerge, I felt capable and confident, and extremely excited about my future. At the end of the day, if companies and organizations are willing to put in the effort to support our diverse and talented community, the rewards and solutions could be exponential. And if anyone asked me about my experience at Emerge I’d tell them, “You can’t go wrong!”

Would you like to be a Disability Ambassador with WID and JP Morgan & Chase? Keep an eye out for applications for 2020, coming soon!

To read more about our Disability Ambassadors’ experiences at Emerge 2019, follow either link below:

Danielle Anderson’s Emerge blog
Christina Mills’ Emerge blog

For more Disability Ambassador blogs, check out our Conference Accessibility Initiative 2019 page.

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Marcie Roth Named WID’s Executive Director/CEO


Berkeley, CA. (September 12, 2019) – Today, the Board of Directors of the World Institute on Disability (WID), has announced that Marcie Roth has been selected as the new full-time Executive Director/CEO. Ms. Roth, a well-recognized  disability rights advocate, will begin her new position on September 24, 2019. WID’s Board Chair, Kevin Foster said that he and the Board members are “excited about the future of WID under Marcie’s leadership.” He went on to say that he is “incredibly grateful to Anita Aaron for leading WID  for the past 10 years and creating an environment that will allow the new ED/CEO, Marcie Roth, to have a global impact at WID for many years to come.”

Photo of Marcie Roth, a white woman with light brown hair. She is wearing red glasses, pearls, and a navy blue jacket. Text says "Please join us in welcoming Marcie Roth, Executive Director/CEO, World Institute on Disability"

Marcie Roth is currently the CEO of the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, Inc. and President/CEO of Inclusive Emergency Management Strategies. The Partnership provides strategic leadership for a national coalition of hundreds of disability emergency management and disaster response stakeholders. She also provides expert consulting on disaster risk reduction globally through Inclusive Emergency Management Strategies.

Prior to that, Ms. Roth served as Senior Advisor to the FEMA Administrator and Director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination where she transformed the government’s approach to whole community inclusive emergency management, before during and after disasters.

Upon being named Executive Director/CEO, Ms. Roth stated “I am so honored to be the next ED/CEO of WID.  When I think of WID’s legacy and their past leaders, I realize how fortunate I am to be part of its future.  I look forward to working with WID’s committed board, staff, and stakeholders across the nation and globally to ensure that WID represents and serves our diverse community to ensure full inclusion for all people with disabilities.

Marcie Roth is the recipient of many awards and honors including the 2017 Hilton Foundation Fellowship, Handicap International, the Zelmanowitz Humanitarian Award, many awards from FEMA including the Administrator’s award and the Leadership Award from FEMA and the State Department for her work during the Haiti Earthquake Response. However, she is most proud of the Disability Leader of the Year Award she received from WID in 2009.

Marcie Roth has over 24 years of non-profit and government experience leading and guiding national, federal and global organizations with advocacy and public policy missions focusing on disability rights, accessibility, community inclusion, emergency preparedness, disaster response and recovery, climate change adaptation, humanitarian action, healthcare access, employment, inclusive school and community services, assistive technology, and leadership development.

* * *

Based in Berkeley, California, the World Institute on Disability (WID) is a nonprofit that works to fully integrate people with disabilities into the communities around them via research, policy, and consulting efforts.

PDF of press release

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Paralysis, Disability, and Disaster Readiness

Hi! I’m Ruf ‘n’ Ready, the Disaster Readiness Service Dog!

Disaster Readiness may feel like a huge challenge for people in the paralysis community, with all the other challenges in our lives. I’m here to help you get ready!

Disaster or emergency events like floods, fires, tornados, earthquakes and other natural and human-caused events are especially hard on people with paralysis, along with other disabilities. Among other things, people with paralysis should:

  • Connect with neighbors, friends, family and caregivers to check in and help you out if a disaster hits. Support networks are vital before, during and after disasters!
  • Gather emergency supplies to shelter in-place or take with you, if you need to evacuate. These include basic emergency supplies like water, non-perishable food, and flashlights – as well as paralysis-related resources like wheelchair chargers, medical goods and bathroom care supplies. Pack today!
  • Develop an evacuation plan. Do you live on upper levels of an apartment building? Then have a backup wheelchair in your garage and a plan to get down the stairs! Figure out transportation ahead-of-time, whether it’s an emergency driver or understanding your city’s resources. Transportation plans can keep you safe!
  • Identify shelter and related needs after a disaster. You may need to leave your home for days, weeks or more. Having accessible, inclusive place to stay is a must!
  • Sign up for local emergency notifications. Your city, county or state may reach out over radio and TV or through email, phone calls and text messages. Enroll in emergency lists to know when you may need to evacuate!

Remember, planning ahead for our safety is crucial! Start now, because you never know when a disaster could come your way.

The educational materials below can help you get ready! You’ll feel better about disaster readiness when you start planning for your own (and others’) safety and well-being.

We are grateful to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for their generous resources to create this and many other projects to ensure our health, safety, participation and inclusion in our world. For more information on their fantastic work, visit www.ChristopherReeve.org

Tri-fold hand-out

This one-pager can be downloaded and copied for everyone! It introduces the most important points for readiness, including items for your “Go Bag” and tips for awareness and planning. Keep one on hand for yourself or print some for your local friends and organizations.

Disaster readiness trifold

Large print pamphlet

This pamphlet includes all of the great recommendations in our tri-fold, with extended information and larger text for people with low vision and anyone that would like info on a full page. Download it, read it and share with your friends!

Disaster Pamphlet – large print

Disaster readiness video

This 10 minute video, hosted by me, Ruff ‘n’ Ready, is a great way to learn about disaster readiness. Post this on your website! Share it with friends! Spread it over social media! Consider hosting a gathering with people in your community, Independent Living Center or any group, to show the video and have a discussion — or a party! This will help you and others plan together and support each other to stop putting it off and get ready!

Disaster Readiness Policy Paper

Disability Disaster Readiness – Overview & Recommendations – WID2019

This document explores the history and the range of social and personal factors that affect our community’s experience of disasters and emergencies. Extensive policy and practice recommendations are offered to support community readiness. This paper can be distributed to policy-makers, agencies, and first-responder organizations in your community to alert them to important changes they can make to protect our safety and well-being. It can also be used by paralysis advocates to learn what to push for in their communities!


Here are recordings of two webinars we presented, one directed to people with paralysis and their families, and one directed to disability agencies, about readiness for our communities. View the videos below to learn more!

Disaster Readiness and Paralysis – a Webinar for Individuals and Allies

Disaster Safety for People with Paralysis – Webinar for Professionals and Advocates

Thank you for visiting our site and learning about paralysis and emergency preparedness. This can help you make your own plans – and create inclusive disaster readiness in your community. Please plan ahead, spread the word and protect people with paralysis everywhere!

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Job Announcement: Executive Director/CEO

Do you have the skills necessary to lead the World Institute on Disability?

Seeking a candidate with exceptional leadership, management, and relationship building skills to lead a national & international cross disability organization in impacting positive change for social, political and economic equality for people with disabilities.

Become the next Executive Director/CEO of the World Institute on Disability!

Position Summary

The Executive Director serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the World Institute on Disability (WID) and is responsible for the overall leadership and development of the organization. This person reports directly to the WID Board of Directors. The Executive Director provides leadership, strategic alignment, and capability with public, private and governmental agencies, national and international organizations, and political leaders. This person will demonstrate strong leadership behaviors and is capable of translating Board policy into measurable operational objectives. The Executive Director must possess strong leadership skills and vision to effectively align organizational structure and talent with the ability to provide guidance, coaching, and mentoring to his or her management team and the organization as a whole. This role must also demonstrate the ability to effectively manage, communicate, and sustain change. The Executive Director assists the Board of Directors in policy adoption and maintenance and evaluation of operational programs at WID and serves as WID’s spokesperson and liaison to other organizations.

Located in the birthplace of the disability rights movement, Berkeley, CA, 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 needs a highly skilled senior level leader to help shape the next phase of impact of a dynamic organization whose programs continue to grow in complexity, scale, and reach. The successful candidate will bring the strategic vision and collaborative partnership approach needed to enable the organization to continue to lead the removal of all barriers currently preventing people with disabilities from full access and integration. The ideal candidate will have polished communication and presentation skills and serve as an articulate and passionate ambassador and revenue generator for the organization in a broad range of settings to diverse audiences. The successful candidate can be located in Berkeley, CA or Washington, DC.  This is an exceptional, high-profile national/international leadership opportunity.

Major Responsibilities

LEADERSHIP – Exercise leadership and move others to action, both inside and outside of WID. Demonstrate a positive, results-oriented style that inspires people and broadens the circles of support for WID’s agenda and programs. Prioritize the goals and strategies approved by the WID board, as part of the annual budget and strategic plan and manage staff to realize these goals and implement these strategies.

AMBASSADORSHIP – Build and maintain relationships with other disability advocacy organizations. Work in close partnership with and collaborate with such organizations on a variety of disability policy issues and events.

FISCAL MANAGEMENT – Work with the Chief Financial Officer and relevant board and staff members to develop, implement, and monitor the annual budget and all other financial activities of WID. Exercise sound and prudent fiscal judgment to ensure that WID meets its financial obligations and annual budget goals.

BOARD DEVELOPMENT AND REPORTING – Work closely with the board and assist in board administration and governance issues.

ADVOCACY – Convene stakeholders to advocate for economic and social empowerment for people with disabilities at the state and federal levels.

STRATEGIC PLANNING – Develop a plan to continue to grow WID and build on its programmatic successes such as the WID E3 program, including the Employment, Economic, and Disability Benefit Empowerment programs; New Earth Disability (NED), WID’s climate change initiative; The New Leaders Fellowship Initiative program,  DPO Leadership and Management Training Initiative; and Accessibility Consulting.

DEVELOPMENT – Work with the board and staff to broaden the financial support for WID, growing the budget and programs over time, and helping the organization achieve sustainable growth and long-term fiscal strength. Align development priorities with the organizational goals and strategic plan.

COMMUNICATION ABILITY – Use multiple communication channels to deliver a message that is clear, compelling, and creates a climate where diverse audiences understand the message and, to the extent possible, want to participate and support the message.

TRAINING/COACHING SKILLS – Foster the professional development of staff through coaching and feedback on results; take decisive action to address any performance problems.

VISION – Work with the board to develop and communicate a compelling vision for WID, and recognize, create, and capitalize on opportunities for organizational growth and success.

POLICY KNOWLEDGE –Work with the board and staff to position WID as a disability and civil rights policy thought leader by strategically participating in policy development, research, and coalition work.

CREATIVITY –Demonstrate openness and creativity in approaching problems and opportunities for WID and the disability community.

ETHICS – Demonstrate the highest ethical standards and operate with integrity and transparency in conducting the business of the organization.

Position Requirements


  • A minimum of 7 years of management/leadership experience, fundraising, and fiscal oversight, or equivalent experience, preferably with a non-profit organization. Significant experience in marketing or business will be considered
  • Excellent knowledge of disability policy and advocacy, with a demonstrated passion for social justice.
  • Demonstrated thought leadership in advancing the inclusion of individuals with disabilities nationally and globally.
  • Excellent established relationship and engagement success with the disability community.
  • Non-profit experience preferred.
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, inclusion and intersectionality.
  • Excellent leadership skills.
  • Ability to handle and manage change.
  • International experience including knowledge of USAID and State Department Programs preferred.


  • Minimum B.A./B.S.; an advanced degree preferred


  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Responsive to stakeholders in a timely manner
  • Strong organizational, management, and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to inspire and motivate colleagues, volunteers, funders, and coalition partners
  • Strong team-oriented and collaborative ethic and approach
  • Demonstrated ability to work well with everyone
  • Basic technology skills, including MS Office/Google Suite of Apps and social media knowledge

Ability to Travel is Required

Apply Now

Submit your resume and cover letter by email to Christine Griffin at cgriffin@benderconsult.com with “WID Executive Director/CEO” in the subject line. Resumes and cover letters are due by June 21, 2019.

Download a Word document with the job description information here:

WID Executive Director/CEO Job Announcement

WID is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law. Persons with disabilities are strongly encouraged to apply. Accommodations provided upon request.

WID’s Current Initiatives-2019

For 35 years the World Institute on Disability has been dedicated to examining the cutting-edge issues faced by people with disabilities on a local and global scale. WID’s mission was built on a foundation of civil rights activism that its founders Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann, and Joan Leon embodied when they established this organization in 1983. The world that WID envisioned was one in which people with disabilities could lead fully integrated lives, void of barriers and institutionalized obstacles.

Today, WID’s current team of professionals, activists, and policymakers believes in this mission more than ever and we are always expanding our scope of knowledge to address the needs, wants, and opportunities of our changing world. Our policy and educational work centers around inclusion and universal design, and we are dedicated to the fight for equality. WID’s work addresses the diverse needs of the disability community for creative and innovative accommodations and solutions.

Painting depicting a scene of downtown Berkeley, including a wheelchair user with their service dog, as well as merchants selling jewelry at a street faire.
Section from a Patrick Connally painting inside the WID Berkeley office

2019 is going to be an exciting year for us. We are broadening the reach of long-term projects to encompass new initiatives that pinpoint barriers within the disability community. Our goal this year is to use our research to provide nuanced answers to the problems that hinder people with disabilities from living their lives to the fullest. Following are a number of 2019 initiatives we are excited to work on. You will find relevant links for each project in the descriptions if you wish to learn more about the work we do.


WID E3 is a disability empowerment model and set of resources created to provide valuable tools to job-seekers with disabilities to promote entrance into the workforce. Effective programs and resources have been developed by WID’s subject matter experts to support the dynamic nature of working with a disability. These components are suitable for use by special education, post-secondary, rehabilitation, workforce, independent living programs, and individuals with disabilities. WID E3 materials can also help both family members and related professionals become more effective. WID E3’s components are designed to be added to existing employment efforts, either in whole or in part.

The model is divided into three focuses to offer comprehensive information about career and savings integrity. These are the Employment, Economic, and Disability Benefit Empowerment programs. For complete access to these navigational tools, follow through to the WID E3 main page.

Disaster Preparation and Resilience

Environmental research is the foundation for WID’s climate change initiative New Earth Disability (NED). The primary concern of this project is to identify challenges for the disability community posed by climate change and establish the best responses to these issues. NED works to educate the public and involve various stakeholders to ensure concrete resources for people with disabilities as natural disasters and environmental change persists.

NED is kicking off 2019 with a new project consulting the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on how to improve city infrastructure to enable people with disabilities to live active, dynamic lives. Our team regularly presents to community partners on our research findings, and these platforms and connections will be implemented to focus on transportation-centered concerns. This project is state funded and will examine topics such as disability-centered evacuation during wildfire disasters and improved paratransit reliability.

International Development and Capacity Building

The New Leaders Fellowship Initiative is a program 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).  WID facilitates opportunities to share best practices, to start dialogues about common issues around disability, and to view the bigger picture of disability worldwide.

DPO Leadership and Management Training is a worldwide capacity building initiative to facilitate the growth and prevalence of Disabled Persons Organizations through knowledge transfer and education in advocacy, development and funding. The International project works with NGOs providing essential services in developing and conflict-ridden countries to build policies and practices into NGO services that include individuals with disabilities.  WID focuses particularly on services related to DPOs and organizations focused on climate change, peace-building and Employment.

Find more about WID’s international initiatives and programs on the World Programs site.

Accessibility Consulting

Here at WID, we believe that accessibility should be an inherent aspect of design to include people with disabilities as participants, clients, and subscribers. Technology and services often require upgrades to better accommodate disability-related needs such as assistive device compatibility or multiple learning-style models of information sharing. Our team of consultants works with organizations to educate their service developers on how to improve their products and better serve the disability community long-term. This project is called Accessibility Consulting.

The accessibility projects focus on three main areas. The Business and Industry initiative partners with the financial, technology, educational Software, and consulting arenas to expand their ability to provide accessible services to their clients and employees. The User Testing initiative focuses on webpage and app accessibility in order to provide information to developers and distributors on the accessibility and usability of products. Lastly, the Conference Accessibility project sends WID staff to national conferences with a total attendance of more than 5,000 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.

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