Kessler Foundation grants nearly $1M to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities

Kessler Foundation said Wednesday that in 2022 it approved approximately $1 million in grants to support initiatives that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.

The majority of the funding was allocated into two categories: Signature Employment Grants and Community Employment Grants. The remaining funds were awarded to Foundation Directed Grants, Special Initiative Grants and Emergency Relief Grants.

“In our society, work often defines who we are, and how we are perceived by others,” Elaine Katz, senior vice president for grants and communications at Kessler Foundation, said. “Because participating in the workplace has many benefits, both tangible and intangible, Kessler Foundation focuses its grantmaking on expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and addresses employment outcomes through its rehabilitation research.”

Nearly $500,000 in Signature Employment Grants have been conferred to launch two initiatives in 2023 for projects targeting unemployment issues for people with disabilities identified by the foundation.

“Creating innovative ideas to increase competitive-integrated employment is the most important focus for signature employment grants,” Katz said.

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., is one of this year’s grantees. Through community collaboratives, the association plans to deliver sequenced training, employment and advancement opportunities for a hospitality career path. The other grantee, the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Institute for Community Inclusion, intends to enable teams of employment consultants and their managers to examine techniques and procedures, set goals and take action to improve the implementation of research-based employment supports. Integrating these measures will improve the employment outcomes of job-seekers.

In 2022, the foundation also distributed $260,000 in Community Employment Grants for eight programs that will fund a range of on-site and virtual employment-related supports and workforce development. These grants deliver New Jersey organizations the means to run programs such as counseling and financial assistance, work-readiness training and remote instruction in assistive technology.

The balance of the foundation’s 2022 grants supported funding to target and bring awareness of systemic gaps and barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in gainful employment. This is accomplished through webinars, sharing of survey data, news and policies from experts in the field.

Since 2005, the foundation’s Center for Grantmaking has awarded more than $50 million to nonprofit programs that expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities striving to work, adding diversity to American workplaces and boosting productivity.