Kessler Foundation Pledges Emergency Grant to Help People with Disabilities Affected by Hurricane Harvey

The $10,000 grant helps evacuate, shelter, and aid individuals with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable in disaster situations

August 31, 2017 – East Hanover, NJ – Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, has pledged an emergency grant of $10,000 to Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies to help evacuate, shelter, and aid people with disabilities affected by Hurricane Harvey. Portlight, a responder organization focused solely on disability inclusive disaster response and recovery initiatives, has provided emergency assistance to hundreds of people with disabilities and their families, since the storm first struck late last week. People with disabilities are particularly vulnerable in emergency situations, with many unable to evacuate on their own, or losing access to essential medical equipment and medication. 

"Kessler Foundation has again stepped up to help people with disabilities in a time of crisis. Their contribution to Portlight's work will have a direct and immediate positive impact on our community in Houston,” said Paul Timmons, Jr., co-founder and current chairman of Portlight Strategies. “Right now, we are providing replacements for medical equipment, and short-term lodging. We're also gathering anecdotal information, noting shortcomings in the system for assisting individuals, so we can use that in our ongoing efforts to educate and mitigate accessibility issues in these extreme situations.”

Portlight is working closely with the Houston Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Texas state government, the FEMA Regional Disability Integration Specialist, and the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Hurricane Harvey Disability Hotline, among other organizations. Together, Portlight and the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies Hurricane Harvey Disability Hotline are providing technical assistance and guidance to prevent disaster survivors from being turned away from shelters, denied their civil rights, or inappropriately institutionalized.

“Our hearts are heavy witnessing the devastation that Hurricane Harvey has brought on to the people of Houston,” said Rodger DeRose, president and CEO of Kessler Foundation. “But, we’ve also seen an unbelievable display of solidarity in the wake of this disaster, and that, to me, is reassuring. Our contribution to Portlight supports both the initial disaster response, as well as the long-term recovery process that will be even more challenging for people with special needs.”

In 2012, Kessler Foundation hosted 'Rebuilding Lives After Hurricane Sandy: A Benefit for People With Disabilities' in support of Hurricane Sandy survivors with disabilities. Nearly $28,000 was raised to support the Foundation’s Hurricane Sandy Emergency Fund, which was established to allocate grants to disability organizations providing aid in New Jersey. Such grants helped fund home modifications, assistive technology, transportation, personal care assistance, durable medical equipment and other pressing needs.

About Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies:

Portlight Strategies, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) organization, founded in 1997 to facilitate a variety of projects involving people with disabilities, including post-disaster relief work. Portlight's longest running disaster recovery effort followed the devastation of Superstorm Sandy in the shore communities of New Jersey and parts of New York City. Through ongoing programs, Portlight is working to promote self-determination of needs and issues with respect to disaster preparedness and response. Portlight fosters community relationships with these agencies to promote inclusiveness in disaster preparedness and response plans and to ensure provisions for transportation and shelter accessibility. 

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 employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

For more information on Kessler Foundation's research, visit

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Carolann Murphy, PA; 973-324-8382; [email protected] 

Laura Viglione, MS; 973-323-3675; [email protected]

For more information, contact:
Deb Hauss, [email protected]
Carolann Murphy, [email protected]

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