Susan O’Hara of the True North Foundation: Disability Rights Awareness — and Action
March 26, 2007 — Susan O’Hara, trustee and program officer of the True North Foundation, a longtime member of the San Francisco Bay Area disability community and one of its primary community historians and philanthropic leaders, will be honored as the 2007 recipient of DFN‘s William Diaz Impact Award. The Diaz Award honors grantmakers who have a positive impact on the disability community and whose work encourages the foundation community to be more inclusive of disability.
Nominated for the Diaz Award by the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF), Susan O’Hara and the True North Foundation will be recognized at the 2007 Council on Foundations Annual Meeting in Seattle, Wash., on April 28. Ms. O’Hara has made an invaluable contribution to elevating awareness of the disability rights and independent living movement, and to promoting disability human rights issues within the philanthropy community through education and outreach. She acts on that commitment to social justice and access to services for people with disabilities and the elderly through significant and ongoing grantmaking to diverse disability and elder organizations.
The True North Foundation is an independent foundation now headquartered in Grass Valley, Calif., and a member of the Disability Funders Network as well as the Environmental Grantmakers Association and Northern California Grantmakers. O’Hara advises the foundation on grants to disability and senior organizations, and her efforts have made True North one of the handful of funders who really understand the essential nature of law and policy reform as a tool for social change, particularly in the field of disability. Through her advocacy, organizations dedicated to core civil and human rights work have received funding for activities that many funders rarely support, such as legislative development, grassroots organizing and legal advocacy.
In addition to their primary interest in policy advocacy, Susan O’Hara and the True North Foundation fund diverse groups, reflecting their view that disability is embedded in the full range of human activity. The foundation has supported activities such as accessible dance classes taught by Axis Dance Company in Oakland, a troop of dancers with and without disabilities; parent training services through Support for Families of Children with Disabilities in San Francisco; capacity -building for the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program, which provides athletic training opportunities for children and adults with disabilities; and a 16-page insert on accessible wilderness trails of the San Francisco Bay Area in Bay Nature, a mainstream monthly magazine.
Ms. O’Hara is acutely aware of the importance of general support and has promoted that for organizations such as East Bay Innovations, a supportive housing and employment program for people with disabilities, and the Berkeley Center for Independent Living, as well as programs for brain injury and accessible technology, among others. While most True North grants are restricted to San Francisco and Alameda Counties in California, grants are occasionally made for unique model programs likely to have national impact.
Read more about Susan O’Hara and her contributions to disability rights awareness, the independent living movement and taking action at http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/collections/drilm/collection/items/ohara.html.