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Disability Inclusive Grantmaking is the mission of DFN: inclusion of disability in grantmaking programs and inclusion of people with disabilities in grantmaking organizations.

DFN E-News: Vol. 2, No. 3


DFN News

Strong Showing for DFN at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference

From pre-conference events to central conference sessions, DFN was a definite presence at the Council on Foundations (COF) Annual Conference in Dallas at the end of April. Following is a brief summary of our activities:

  • On Saturday, April 26, DFN Executive Director and Affinity Group Network (AGN) Co-Chair, Jeanne Argoff, greeted a crowd of attendees at the AGN and COF welcoming reception, an opportunity for conference participants to learn about the full range of resources available through the Affinity Group Network and network with members of all 37 of the COF-sponsored Affinity Groups. COF President, Dot Ridings, praised the Affinity Groups for their collaborative activities, and Mary Backley, chief operating officer of Grantmakers in Health and AGN co-chair, closed the reception. The hit of the evening was the Quamon Fowler Quartet, a group of jazz musicians with visual disabilities.
  • After the reception, DFN cosponsored “Saturday Night at the Movies,” with Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media. The audience saw a special screening of The Collector of Bedford Street, followed by a discussion with the producer, Alice Eliott, and the star of the film, Larry Selman. Selman, a 60-year-old resident of Greenwich Village with a developmental disability, raised thousands of dollars for various charities but was in danger of losing his freedom and his rent-controlled apartment because his uncle and guardian was growing too old to provide the assisted living services that allowed Selman to live independently. Selman’s story, which includes the decision of the Bedford Street Neighborhood Association to create a trust fund administered by Jewish Social Services, demonstrates the power of collaboration in social problem solving and the importance of community-based living options for people with disabilities.
  • An Evening with Molly Ivins, sponsored by DFN and the Neighborhood Funders Group on Sunday, April 27, was the talk of the conference. Sylvia Clark, DFN’s incoming board chair, introduced Ivins, a veteran critic and commentator on the state of Texas and the state of the world. Ivins brought the house down with her irreverent comments and gave the sign-language interpreter a run for her money. Clark also presented a check and a plaque to the first recipient of DFN’s William Diaz Impact Award for Disability Grantmaking, Nelson Colon of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation. Mr. Colon’s moving acceptance remarks will be posted on this site in the near future.
  • DFN’S annual meeting took place on April 28. The meeting focused on DFN’s Emergency Preparedness Project (see DFN E-News Vol. 2, No. 2) and new resources for our Web site. Attendees had excellent suggestions for enhancing both projects. Look for new features on the site and a report on how to include people with disabilities in foundation and corporate emergency preparedness efforts by the end of the summer.
  • DFN’s session on building inclusive and accessible Web sites was held on Tuesday, April 29. Broadening Communications: How Your Web Site Can Reach Diverse Constituents attracted over 50 participants who came to learn how to design or redesign their Web sites to communicate their message to ALL of their target audiences — including people with disabilities and those in cross-cultural communities. Later Tuesday evening, DFN helped to facilitate the Joint Affinity Group (JAG) “Twilight Dialogue.” This session, designed by DFN and the other “identity-based” affinity groups, gave grantmakers an opportunity to discuss the impact of the economy and the cost of the war in Iraq on their constituents and their roles as funders.

New Board Chair Inducted at Annual Meeting

At DFN‘s annual meeting in Dallas, Sylvia Clark, executive director of the NEC Foundation of America (Melville, NY), was inducted as the new board chair. Clark was one of DFN’s founding directors and is returning to the board after a two-year hiatus. NEC Foundation makes grants to nonprofit organizations and programs with national reach and impact in the application of technology to assist people with disabilities.

DFN owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to its outgoing chair, Deborah Lewis of the Ethel Louise Armstrong Foundation (Altadena, CA). Lewis took over as board chair at a critical time in DFN’s history and gave generously of her time and expertise. Chief among her many contributions was her leadership in the strategic planning that has brought DFN to a new level of capacity and recognition. Lewis will remain on DFN’s executive committee for the coming year to ensure a smooth and productive transition.

New Ticket-to-Work Grant from The California Endowment

Through the generous support of The California Endowment, DFN has received a $25,000 grant to develop and implement a statewide nonprofit and foundation dissemination strategy for information related to the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Opportunities Act (TWWIIA). This year is the most opportune time to reach nonprofits in California to accomplish the goals of the Ticket Act. The state now has a new law, AB 925, signed in September 2002, which advances state workforce inclusion policies and will establish the infrastructure for future changes needed to remove disincentives for people with disabilities to work or increase earnings without losing critical health and human services supports. In addition, the Social Security Administration will begin the rollout of the Ticket-to-Work Program in California, which — among other things — will enable nonprofits in the state to become “employment networks,” which deliver employment services to Social Security beneficiaries.

The new California Endowment grant will enable DFN to inform nonprofits about the possibility of obtaining seed money from foundations that can enable them to operate as employment networks until they achieve the employment outcomes that generate revenue from the Social Security Administration under Ticket to Work. The fortuitous timing of the grant will enable DFN to coordinate its dissemination efforts with the release of a compendium of “how-to” information by the national program operator of the Ticket-to-Work program on obtaining foundation and corporate grants, loans and other government funding. DFN produced the foundation and corporate sections of the soon-to-be released funding guide.

DFN Member Activities

First California Legislative Briefing on Girls and Young Women with Disabilities

By Leslie Wolfe, Center for Women Policy Studies

With generous support from The California Endowment, the Center for Women Policy Studies (Washington, D.C.) and the Disabled Women’s Alliance (Albany, CA) are joining forces to convene a first-ever California Legislative Briefing on Girls and Young Women with Disabilities for California and other west coast state legislators. The briefing will be hosted by California State Senator Sheila James Kuehl in Sacramento later this year. We invite our DFN colleagues to learn more about our plans in California — and to consider similar legislative briefings in their states. The California briefing is our first following our landmark 2002 Capitol Hill Briefing on Girls and Young Women with Disabilities, sponsored by the Congressional Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus and hosted by Representative Connie Morella (R-MD). To learn more, contact Leslie R. Wolfe at the center at lwolfe@centerwomenpolicy.org.

Lawsuit Challenges Closure of Rancho

By Eve Hill, Western Law Center for Disability Rights

(In an earlier issue of DFN E-News, we reported that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to close Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, nationally recognized for its contributions to rehabilitation medicine and its success in returning patients to independent community life. Since that time, a coalition of advocates — including a DFN member organization, the Western Law Center for Disability Rights — filed a class-action suit to stop the closure. We thank Eve Hill, executive director of the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, for the expert knowledge and insider perspective contained in the following article reporting on Rancho’s current situation.)

On January 28, 2003, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to close Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital (“Rancho”) by the end of June. A lawsuit filed in March seeks to prevent that from happening. The suit challenges the proposed closure of Rancho, claiming that the decision will result in unnecessary institutionalization, suffering, and even death for many low-income people with disabilities. The lawsuit is a collaborative effort by the Western Law Center for Disability Rights, Protection and Advocacy, Inc., the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the National Senior Citizens’ Law Center and the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis.

On April 29, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing the county from taking any further steps to reduce services at Rancho until May 13, while she considers whether to issue a preliminary injunction. She has issued a tentative preliminary injunction proposing to prohibit closure until the county can ensure that Rancho patients have access to treatment elsewhere, but that order has not become final. The plaintiffs in the case, their attorneys, and a group of protesters camped in a tent city outside Rancho were pleased and relieved to be granted this reprieve.

Rancho is a nationally recognized leader in the treatment and rehabilitation of serious disabilities such as spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, limb amputation, arthritis and post-polio syndrome. Rancho is highly regarded for its contributions to the advancement of medical knowledge and treatment of disabilities. For example, Rancho invented the “halo,” which has become an essential tool in the treatment of spinal cord injuries. Rancho is a major participant in the research into serious disabilities, including a new study to see if a “bionic nerve” can help stroke patients regain use of their arms and hands. Technologies developed and tested at Rancho can be used to treat disabilities ranging from muscle paralysis to serious spinal cord injuries.

Rancho is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 rehabilitation facilities in the country by U.S. News and World Report. It is the only major rehabilitation facility serving L.A. County. Rancho is renowned for its ability to discharge patients back to their homes when other rehabilitation hospitals would have to discharge them to medical facilities. In addition, Rancho’s patients have a significantly higher level of functional independence when they are discharged than patients from other rehabilitation facilities. By preparing patients for independence, Rancho’s services make the difference between life in the community and life in a nursing home for many people with disabilities. Rancho also provides dental and other preventive medical care in wheelchair-accessible facilities.

The named plaintiffs are three L.A. County residents with severe disabilities who, like most Rancho patients, rely on Medi-Cal (the California version of Medicaid) to pay for their health care. Most Rancho patients are referred to Rancho by other county hospitals who cannot provide rehabilitation services to the indigent. Without Rancho’s services, many patients will not be able to obtain rehabilitation, will not be able to gain independence and return to their lives, and will probably have to move to nursing homes.

The state and county are closing Rancho purportedly to save money. However, some experts maintain that such savings are unlikely. Moreover, the suit claims, those savings can only materialize if the county does not increase funding to the other county hospitals to take over Rancho’s patients, which it does not plan to do. A comprehensive survey of Los Angeles area hospitals by attorneys filing the suit revealed that no other hospital can take on the patients that Rancho currently serves. In addition, developments since January have turned the county health care system’s budget crisis around and it now expects significant surpluses through 2005.

The county was already turning new patients away and was preparing to tell existing patients to seek services elsewhere when the judge issued her temporary restraining order. If issued, a preliminary injunction would prevent closure until the conclusion of the trial, or until the county found another way to serve Medi-Cal patients with severe disabilities. The injunction could provide enough time for the hospital to transition to private ownership. The California Community Foundation has issued a report proposing that the hospital could make that transition within a year.

Note from DFN: Look for a future article on how the California Community Foundation’s “community broker” approach addresses vital community issues like the Rancho closing.

Vision Loss in the 21st Century: Conference Report

By Sylvia Clark, NEC of America Foundation

I attended Vision Loss in the 21st Century: Everybody’s Business in Los Angeles, February 19-21. This outstanding conference offered tracks related to education, literacy, health/medicine and science, employment and business leadership development, low vision, rehabilitation and independent living, transportation and environmental access, media access and society, technology and aging. Conference sponsors were the American Foundation for the Blind and Foundation for the Junior Blind. To my listening, there was a strong murmur about the too-thin ranks of folks working to advance the issues of teacher training, brailling, advocacy, technology. It’s the familiar “leadership development” issue.

I followed the technology and literacy tracks, primarily. A big convergent issue there is around digital rights management as spelled out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Digital rights management enables content providers to protect their content and maintain control over distribution. This issue is how to balance the protection of authors and the “fair use” rights of consumers in the digital age. The Chaffee Amendment provides a particular narrow exemption for people who are blind or have low-vision. But their access requires an intermediary, such as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic: People cannot simply download texts and expect them to run on the software they’ve installed for this purpose. One big concern is that software will carry more and more encryption that limits use by all consumers, not just people who are blind and visually impaired.

Among keynote speakers were two outstanding futurists. Common themes of both speakers were “human enhancement applications” as a result of the convergence of information technology, cognitive science, biotechnology and nanotechnology. All of this is “galloping along,” to quote one speaker. Implications for people with disabilities are compelling — if we all help shape the efforts accordingly.

AAPD and NOW Join Forces to Cosponsor Women with Disabilities & Allies Forum

(The following is the AAPD press release announcing the forum.)

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation announce that they will hold a joint forum on disability and women’s rights Oct. 17-19, 2003. Entitled Women with Disabilities & Allies Forum: Linking Arms for Equality & Justice for All, the three-day summit will address issues of mutual concern to the feminist and disability rights movements.

“Now more than ever, disability rights advocates must cultivate diverse allies in our common struggle for justice, dignity, and respect for human and civil rights. AAPD is delighted to join with the NOW Foundation to bring together leading activists and organizers this October for an historic opportunity to reinforce and reinvigorate our combined efforts to achieve equality, empowerment, and justice for all,” said AAPD President and chief executive officer Andrew J. Imparato.

“All women — including women with disabilities — share the dream of full equality, economic and personal independence, educational and employment opportunity, reproductive freedom and full participation in society,” said NOW Foundation President Kim Gandy. “Women living with disabilities face multiple forms of discrimination, making it even harder to achieve their goals. Breaking down these barriers is a long-standing priority of the NOW Foundation.”

The Women with Disabilities & Allies Forum: Linking Arms for Equality & Justice for All will begin Friday, Oct. 17, at 5 p.m., and conclude Sunday, Oct. 19, at 4 p.m. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland.

AAPD and the NOW Foundation anticipate that this forum will bring together a diverse group of women from across the country to discuss a broad range of issues and share ideas, and that it will celebrate AAPD’s and NOW’s common ground and help all women work toward creating a future that values and embraces them.

Forum discussion topics will include women’s economic empowerment, political activism and grassroots organizing, judicial nominees, Title IX, prenatal testing and abortion rights, health care, hate crimes, violence against women and inaccessibility of shelters, the future of civil rights, and how to bring together the disability rights movement and feminist movement issues.

The forum’s registration form will be available in late July on both the AAPD (www.aapd-dc.org) and the NOW Foundation Web sites (www.nowfoundation.org), and the early-bird registration deadline will be August 26. Please visit those Web sites for additional information and future announcements.
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