Employing People with Disabilities: Lessons from Kessler Foundation’s Signature Employment Grants
A White Paper for Professionals in Grant making, Workforce Development, Disability Employment, and Human Resources
From 2004 through 2019, Kessler Foundation has awarded more than $46.7 million to support national and local initiatives that create or expand opportunities for people with disabilities. This 2018 White Paper assesses the diverse grants supported under the Foundation’s Signature Employment Grant (SEG) program from 2009-2015. The SEG program provides major funding for pilot initiatives, demonstration projects, and social ventures that generate new models to address the employment gap between people with and without disabilities.
The paper is based on the independent evaluations of more than 20 Signature Employment Grants by experts at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University. In assessing the SEG programs, five strategic elements emerged as success factors in employment programs for people with disabilities.
1) A focus on changing attitudes about people with disabilities and their ability to work
2) A person-centered approach to employment
3) Technological platforms or model documentation
4) Strong community partnerships
5) Wraparound services
The markers for success were increased employment of people with disabilities, employer and program participant satisfaction, and model replicability. These lessons learned from Kessler Foundation’s experiences in grant making are important considerations for all who seek greater inclusion of individuals with disabilities in our workplaces.