View Kessler Foundation Awards $2.3 Million to Support Initiatives that Expand Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities Across the U.S.

January 20 -- Kessler Foundation has awarded approximately $2.3 million in grants to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create or expand job training and employment initiatives for people with disabilities. Since 2000, the Foundation's distribution of more than $41.5 million has led to improved job skills and paid employment for more than 3,000 individuals with disabilities.

"Through these grants, the Foundation aims to bring awareness to the diverse and often overlooked talent pool that is individuals with disabilities," said Rodger DeRose, president and chief executive officer of Kessler Foundation. "Finding and retaining skilled employees is a challenge for many companies today. Our National Employment and Disability Survey, Supervisor Perspectives, however, found that many companies are underutilizing recruitment practices that can help them achieve their hiring goals. These grants support model initiatives that help pave new directions for increasing inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace."

Signature Employment Grants

More than $1.5 million dollars in Signature Employment Grants—the Foundation's largest grants—have been distributed to launch four initiatives in four states. Signature Grants range from $200,000 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. Here's a summary of the recently awarded Signature Employment Grants:

The Autism Alliance of Michigan's diversity initiative will create partnerships with vocational rehabilitation and provider agencies to identify and prepare individuals with autism for potential employment in automotive companies across Michigan and two other states. The State University of Iowa, Center for Disabilities and Development's initiative, the Midwest Disability Employment Consortium: Just in Time Employment Supports, will launch pilot projects in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota that focus on the use of virtual technology platforms, such as the iPad, to increase supported employment services in the Midwest. Easter Seals Staffing Network, a project of Easter Seals Serving DC|MD|VA, will match individuals with disabilities to private sector employers throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia through a dynamic e-learning system and vocational support model. Communication Service for the Deaf, Inc.'s Works Job Club will improve employment outcomes for Deaf and hard of hearing job seekers in Texas through the launch of a virtual career readiness program that will provide training on the various elements of job seeking and job retention.

Community Employment and Special Initiative Grants

Community Employment Grants advance job training and employment opportunities for New Jersey residents with disabilities. The Foundation has distributed awards totaling $624,000 to 17 programs. Initiatives include various skill training and internship service programs offered to youth and adults with disabilities; transition programs focused on moving individuals with disabilities from sheltered workshops or supported employment to integrated competitive employment; training on the use of assistive technology for adults with paralysis or developmental disabilities; a veteran employment-readiness program; and a transportation program for workers with disabilities in upstate New York.Community Grants range from $50,000 to $200,000 over two years.

Special Initiative Grants support a variety of efforts in New Jersey to improve the lives of people with disabilities. The Foundation has distributed $146,000 to 11 programs that benefit children, veterans, and other adults with disabilities. Initiatives include scholarships, disability programming, a project to make theatre more accessible to patrons with disabilities; support for a competitive adaptive sports team. Special Initiative Grant applications are by invitation only, and the awards range from $5,000 to $20,000 for a period of one year.