Text overlay: Conference Access Initiative 2016. Podium icon with small WID globe, over deep orange background.

2016 Conference Accessibility Initiative

In 2016, the World Institute on Disability (WID) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. partnered with 10 civil rights and community development organizations to make 2016 the first year ever that conference accessibility had a national spotlight.

WID and JPMorgan Chase achieved 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.

Also, be sure to read about our primary captioner, Deanna Baker, who ensured thousands of people experienced open captioning for the first time in 2016 and who will continue her great work with us as the initiative proceeds.

Organizations Served in 2016

If you haven’t already, be sure to visit our main Conference Accessibility Initiative page to learn about the conferences we partnered with in 2017 and 2018, as well as the conferences we’ll be partnering with in 2019.

Photo Galleries by Conference

National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), March 16-19


National Housing Conference (NHC), June 3


National Fair Housing Alliance, June 26-28


NAACP, July 16-20


National Council of La Raza (NCLR), July 23-26


National Urban League (NUL), August 3-6


Florida Housing Coalition (FHC), September 11-14


Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), September 28-30


Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), October 24-27


NeighborWorks America Training Institute, December 12-16


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A wall of tiles, painted with disability themes

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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WID Welcomes New Board Members: 2016

For Immediate Release

Berkeley, CA, USA–The World Institute on Disability (WID) welcomes board member Carol J. Bradley, J. D., who begins her term as WID Board Chair this month.

Carol Bradley, headshotBradley, a Disability Compliance Officer at Sutter Health, has had several decades of disability community engagement, including roles as board member, volunteer, executive director, trainer, advocate, and policy advisor. She has served in leadership roles, including executive director of several independent living centers (ILCs), gubernatorial appointments to two different State Independent Living Counsels, and consultant for Pacific ADA & IT Center, Breast Health Access for Women with Disabilities, and the film, Freedom Machines.

Most recently, her key focus has been developing programs on disability access obligations as a City ADA Coordinator and 8+ years as Sutter Health’s Disability Access/504 Officer. Carol acquired her vision loss during law school and uses a variety of assistive technologies for accessibility.

WID also welcomes three new members to the Board of Directors. We are confident that their unique perspectives, knowledge, and skills will allow our Board to grow even greater in 2016.

Rachel Wolkowitz

Rachel Wolkowitz, headshotRachel is an Attorney at Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP Washington, D.C. She was a recent panelist at a Federal Communications Bar Association Continuing Legal Education event on video accessibility. She advises media companies, carriers, and manufacturers on FCC regulations, including accessibility, hearing aid compatibility, equipment authorization, and marketing requirements.

Kevin Foster

Kevin Foster, headshotKevin is the Director of Human Relations Operations at Motorola Solutions, Inc. in Pheonix, AZ. He has served on the Board of Directors of U.S. Business Leadership Network (USBLN) and the Telluride Adaptive Sports Program (TASP). He was previously on the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Ski Team, and he has a master’s in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from California State University, Sacramento.

Ari Ne’eman

Ari Ne'eman, headshotAri is the President and Co-Founder of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network in Washington, D.C. In 2009, he was nominated by Obama to the National Council on Disability where he chairs the council’s Entitlements Committee. He’s a member of the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment of People with Disabilities and was named a “36 by 36” by the New York Jewish Week in 2010. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.

Bradley, Foster, Ne’eman and Wolkowitz are joined in service to WID by current board members:

  • Rachel Arfa, Attorney and Project Manager, Equip for Equality, Chicago, IL
  • Mary Brooner, MB Consulting, LLC, Eugene, OR;
  • Kevin Dabney, Executive Vice President/CIO, Wholesale Technology Services, Wells Fargo Bank, Phoenix, AZ;
  • Heather Dowdy, Product Manager, Accessibility Engineering, Motorola Mobility LLC, Chicago, IL;
  • Claire Forrest, Writing and PR Freelancer, Minneapolis, MN;
  • Eli Gelardin, Executive Director, Marin Center for Independent Living, San Rafael;
  • Paul Hippolitus, Director, Disabled Students’ Program, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, CA;
  • Sheridan Gates, M Ed., PCC, Coach and Consultant, Purpose At Work, Washington, DC;
  • Susan Kaysinger, Chief Technology Officer/Sr. V.P., Wells Fargo Bank, Corporate Service Delivery, Port Ludlow, WA;
  • Nanci Linke-Ellis, Partner, General Manager, Caption Fish, Culver City, CA;
  • Paul Schroeder, Vice President, American Foundation for the Blind, Public Policy Center, Washington, DC;
  • Frances West, Chief Accessibility Officer, IBM Human Ability & Accessibility Center, Cambridge, MA.

For more information about WID’s Board, go to the Meet Our Board page.

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