Since the early days of the pandemic, people with disabilities, particularly people of color with disabilities, knew that COVID-19 was going to disproportionately affect their communities. While the pandemic has fundamentally changed daily life for everyone, the additional barriers for people with disabilities to access healthcare and a variety of other necessary supports have been immense.  

In response, the Disability Inclusion Fund (DIF) has awarded rapid response grants totaling $210,000 to 15 organizations that are working to support the needs of people with disabilities. These grantees are working boldly, creatively, and strategically, on a variety of responses—from mutual aid to advocacy and policy efforts.

“Through this funding opportunity, we heard from leaders across the country who are working to address the inequities faced by people with disabilities that COVID-19 illuminates, such as not being able to receive proper and needed care, to being excluded entirely from policy discussions that directly impact their daily lives and well-being,” said Richard E. Besser, MD, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “These organizations are working toward solutions that will result in lasting change, and by doing so are defining what equitable community care can, and should be.”

The 15 organizations are:

While the rapid response fund was prompted by the pandemic, the need for meaningful, long-term disability inclusion and justice funding neither starts nor stops here. “In addition to needing immediate resources to protect our communities from imminent harm, people with disabilities and philanthropy must partner and lead the way to develop equitable policies and systems that will impact the disability community,” shared Nikki Brown-Booker, program officer for the Disability Inclusion Fund. The Disability Inclusion Fund at Borealis Philanthropy is a $10M, 5-year Fund that supports U.S. groups run by and for disabled people to lead transformational change.

“For years, advocates have called on philanthropy to use our resources and influence to address structural inequalities facing disabled people. With COVID-19 laying bare these inequities, the call is more urgent than ever,” said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. “Now is the time for philanthropy to support disabled people and the groups that advocate for them to create solutions, secure their rights, and ensure equal access to vital social services during and after these crises. The Disability Inclusion Fund is a step forward, but true inclusion in philanthropy will be achieved when the sector integrates a disability lens in all of its grantmaking and practices.”

The Disability Inclusion Fund is a donor collaborative housed at Borealis Philanthropy. Current donors include the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the California Endowment, the Chicago Community Trust, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the New York Women’s Foundation, NoVo Foundation, Open Society Foundations, the Ruderman Family Foundation, the Weingart Foundation, WITH Foundation, and Anonymous Donors.