Kessler Foundation Awards Over $2.4 Million Supporting Initiatives Expanding Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Across U.S

Three Foundation grant programs focus on addressing employment and improving quality of life for individuals living with disabilities

East Hanover, NJ – January 22, 2020 – Kessler Foundation has awarded over $2.4 million in 2019 in grants to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create or expand job training and employment programs for people with disabilities. Since 2000, the Foundation’s distribution of more than $46.7 million has led to improved job skills and paid employment for thousands of individuals with disabilities.

“On July 26, 2020 it will be 30 years since the ADA was passed addressing discrimination against people with disabilities in education and employment,” said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. “While we have come a long way, much work still needs to be done. Our grants support model initiatives that help pave new directions for increasing inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace, examine techniques and procedures, and improve participation rates of people with disabilities in integrated, competitive employment.”

Signature Employment Grants

More than $1.5 million dollars in Signature Employment Grants—the Foundation's largest grants—have been awarded to launch four initiatives with projects in four states. Signature Grants can range from $100,000 to $500,000 over a two-year period. These awards support pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, or social ventures that lead to the generation of new ideas to increase employment among people with disabilities. Recently awarded Signature Employment Grants:

  • JEVS Human Services (Philadelphia, PA) – $450,000 grant for its Road to Employment program that will create a new mechanism for motivating people with disabilities to pursue employment, connecting them to supports, and reducing public benefits dependence. After the pilot proves the intervention’s effectiveness, JEVS Human Services will scale it across Pennsylvania’s managed care system to maximize its reach.
  • New England Business Associates, Inc. (Springfield, MA) – $380,000 grant to support four cohorts of 12 youth with disabilities in attaining Level 1 and Level 2 advanced manufacturing training and OSHA certification through an intensive eight-week instructional program. This will allow the participants to enter the manufacturing field, which has significant openings for entry-level employment, in an entry-level position that offers opportunities for career growth and economic sustainably.
  • State of Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (Waterbury, VT) – $450,000 grant to support Social Security Disability beneficiaries, to increase their earnings and transition to better lives. To achieve this goal, the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation will implement a combination of interventions, including a modified vocational rehabilitation service package, intensive benefits counseling, and short-term financial support after the cessation of benefits.
  • University of New Hampshire (Durham, NH) – $250,000 grant to investigate the experiences of recent college graduates with disabilities as they transitioned into the workplace, including experiences related to career planning, searching for a job, interviewing with potential employers, disability disclosure, salary, onboarding, and accommodations.

“Job opportunities for people with disabilities have never been greater than they are now,” said Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president for grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “The fact that people with disabilities are not working in significant numbers during a period where the labor market is extraordinarily tight is puzzling and a loss for employers. We still see individuals working at minimum wage jobs that are not self-sustaining, relying on a combination of benefits and low earnings.”


Community Employment Grants

Community Employment Grants advance job training and employment opportunities for New Jersey residents with disabilities. The Foundation has distributed awards totaling $493,500 to 16 programs in 2019. These programs focus on high school youth and adults living with a range of disabilities.  Initiatives include job sampling, soft skills training, job coaching, travel training, and developing a guide for traveling independently to work that can be used individually or for organizations teaching clients the  rights/rules/responsibilities in using various transportation modes. Community Grants range from $25,000 to $50,000 over two years.

Special Initiative Grants

Special Initiative Grants support a variety of efforts in New Jersey to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Foundation has distributed $125,000 to 11 programs. Initiatives include culinary training for students, cooking and nutrition lessons for female veterans, adaptive horseback riding for people with MS, leadership training for young people with disabilities, equipment and uniforms for Paralympic track and field athletes, and support for a disability-related film festival, to name a few. Special Initiative Grants applications are by invitation only and the awards range from $5,000 to $20,000 for a period of one year.

Apply Now

Kessler Foundation is accepting applications now for its 2020 grant programs. To learn more and to apply, pleasevisit our website. Signature Employment Grants applications are due February 14, 2020. Community Employment Grants applications are due by April 6, 2020. Inquires accepted for Special Initiative Grants on a rolling basis.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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Contact information:

Kessler Foundation
Carolann Murphy, PA
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Rob Gerth
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For more information, contact:
Deb Hauss, senior staff writer, 973.324.8372, [email protected]
Carolann Murphy, senior medical writer, [email protected]

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