July 26 is National Disability Independence Day, an annual commemoration of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The signing of the ADA marked the United States’ first critical step in guaranteeing equal opportunity and increased independence to people with disabilities in the areas of employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.
While progress has been made over the last 30 years, there remains much work to be done to not only fully include people with disabilities, but to more largely cultivate a culture where the rights and wellbeing of individuals with disabilities are regarded as essential to the overall health and prosperity of our communities. 26% of adults in the United States have a disability and yet many still face innumerable barriers to universal accessibility.
Nonprofit organizations across the country continue playing a key role in moving the needle forward. Whether through advocacy, job training, recreation, or countless other types of programs, these organizations are dedicated to advancing the rights, freedoms, and holistic wellbeing of people with disabilities – and they need our support.
In honor of National Disability Independence Day, check out these 14 disability empowerment non profit organizations and consider supporting their crucial efforts. These grassroots nonprofits have demonstrated a track record of programming that is directly aligned with their mission, and operate on a budget of less than $1 million.
While this list is a great starting point, we encourage you to take a look locally and see what organizations are near you. Another great resource is giving circles — groups of individuals with shared values who discuss issues they care about, pool their dollars and decide together where to make a collective gift. Some giving circles like Developmental Disabilities Giving Circle and The Awesome Foundation – Disability focus specifically on giving to organizations that serve people with disabilities, while others have more general funding priorities. Search the first-ever Global Giving Circle Directory by Philanthropy Together and Grapevine to see what disability empowerment organizations circles near you have supported. Don’t see a giving circle near you? You can start your own!
Bayanihan Equity Center (BEC)
The Bayanihan Equity Center provides culturally responsive services to address the needs and advance the rights of marginalized communities in pursuit of equity and justice. The BEC’s services include a food pantry, exercise class for older adults, community choir, arts and crafts, and many more. The organization serves as an activity center for the older adults and adults with disabilities in San Francisco, especially for the South of Market residents. Learn more
The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness
Unlike other programs that focus primarily on physical challenges, The Cromwell Center’s programs address all disabilities — learning, behavioral, emotional, developmental, and physical. Serving southern and central Maine elementary school students, the nonprofit promotes safe, respectful and inclusive schools and communities. They are driven by the idea that no person with any kind of disability should experience isolation. Learn more
Deaf Latinos Y Familias Organization
The Deaf Latinos Y Familias Organization promotes awareness of the Latinx cultures to children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing, Deaf Adults, non-verbal, and community members by providing families resources and American Sign Language classes in Spanish to bridge the communication gap. Their goal is to support parents by guiding them through the process of adapting the Deaf culture and ASL into their lives so they can pass along their traditions to the next generation and keep their cultures alive. Learn more
Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta
For years Susan Keeney, Lauren Marks, and Renee Smith, special education teachers in the Atlanta area, watched helplessly as their students aged out of public schools and lost access to valuable resources. With no idea what to do next and little support to help them navigate these crucial next steps, their students joined the 80 percent who do not find adequate programs to replace their social and recreational needs. Looking to bridge the gap, the teachers created The Exceptional Foundation of Atlanta in 2018, bringing an inclusive community built around social, recreational, and volunteer activities to Georgia’s capital city. Learn more
Fiesta Educativa Inc.
Fiesta Educativa Inc. provides information and training to both Latino families in California and professionals who work with these families on how to obtain services for all persons with disabilities. The organization’s efforts include an annual statewide educational conference, sponsorship of regional conferences throughout the state of California, a home-based parent education and training program, and an advocacy and outreach project assisting families and persons with disabilities to make the best use of the agencies and resources available to them in their communities. Learn more
Florence County Disabilities Foundation
From orthopedic shoes to a prom, the Florence County Disabilities Foundation provides funding and resources for quality life experiences to persons living with life-long disabilities. Other services to South Carolina residents include summer camps, talent contests, holiday meals, and uniforms for Special Olympics athletes. Learn more
The Full Life Ahead Foundation
The Full Life Ahead Foundation has created a process to help teens and young adults with disabilities realize their dreams, and then connect them to the resources they need to make them a reality. The Foundation emphasizes celebration as an important part of their process, and has created a camp at Lake Martin in Alabama that includes encouragement, networking with other families, and 1:1 assistance from speakers. Learn more
Korean American Special Education Center (KAISEC)
The Korean American Special Education Center (KASEC)’s mission is to help Korean-American families with children with disabilities who were not receiving adequate special education and social welfare services due to language and cultural barriers. Through direct services, the California based nonprofit offers programs enhancing social, communication, and physical skills for children and adolescents with developmental disabilities. The center focuses on projects for the early detection of developmental disabilities and strives to create social awareness while promoting the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities. Learn more
Leadership in Disabilities and Achievement of Hawai’i
Early intervention is truly a fundamental key to the success of children in school and in life, according to the Leadership In Disabilities and Achievement of Hawai’i. With this in mind, the nonprofit works to enhance educational, work and life opportunities for children with or at risk of disabilities by empowering them and their families through screening; identification; information; training and mentoring; and by public outreach and advocacy. Learn more
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
Imagine a world in which learning disabilities are universally understood, so that all individuals are accepted, supported, and empowered to live a self-determined life. That’s what Learning Disabilities Association of America visualizes and works to make a reality. As the largest nonprofit volunteer organization advocating for individuals with learning disabilities, LDA has over 200 state and local affiliates in 42 states and Puerto Rico. Learn more
Miss Amazing Inc.
Because of widely-held myths about their capabilities, girls with disabilities are often held back from taking risks that could enrich their personal development, deprived of opportunities to make friends, and granted less access to resources. Miss Amazing Inc. provides opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to consider their goals, step outside of their comfort zones, and build networks of support. By investing in girls with disabilities, the organization nurtures a strong community of leaders who push back against stereotypes and advocate for change, thereby creating even greater opportunities for the next generation. Learn more
Native American Disability Law Center
The Law Center advocates so that the rights of Native Americans with disabilities in the Four Corners area are enforced, strengthened and brought in harmony with their communities. The organization works to ensure that Native Americans with disabilities have access to justice and are empowered and equal members of their communities and nations. The issues they address include civil rights, special education, health care, and rights to public and private services. Learn more
Special Needs Solutions
The volunteers of Special Needs Solutions use their creative skills to bring innovative (and affordable) solutions to support the needs of those with cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and other neuro-muscular and cognitive disorders. The Tucson-based nonprofit creates custom-made furniture, clothing, devices, and equipment that help individuals with disabilities progress physically, emotionally, and cognitively. During a typical year they serve over 220 individuals with special needs, and make or adapt nearly a thousand items. Learn more
Texas Parent to Parent (TxP2P)
It’s normal for parents to worry about their child’s needs, and that worry is often amplified when the child is sick or has special needs. This nonprofit gives support to the amazing parents of children with disabilities with a peer support model that empowers families of children and adults with disabilities, chronic and mental health conditions and other health care needs to be strong advocates through parent-to-parent support, resource referral, and education. Learn more
Melissa Vargas is passionate about building connections and is a strong believer in the transformative power of community-led change. She currently serves as Philanthropy Together's Operations and Events Coordinator.
Melissa holds a B.A in Global Studies from Long Island University Global College, a four year experientially based study abroad program. Through her undergraduate program, she completed a blend of coursework, internships, and independent research in 10+ countries throughout Central America, Europe, and Asia. During her studies, Melissa’s research centered around food justice and migration. In her spare time, she loves traveling to new places, delving into new books, and spending time with her family.