The Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development (CDICD), managed by National Disability Institute (NDI), announces the winners of its First Annual Inclusive Community Development Awards: Paraquad, LaunchCode and the Regions Foundation; Easterseals Iowa and Iowa Able Foundation; and Houston Financial Inclusion Working Group and JPMorgan Chase.

The purpose of the awards is to raise the visibility of financial institutions’ and community-based organizations’ activities that are promising and exemplary in support of low- and moderate-income (LMI) individuals with disabilities to improve their financial stability and health and be more active participants in adding value to our nation’s economy, according to a media release from National Disability institute.

“We are thrilled to announce the winners of the First Annual Inclusive Community Development Awards. Each of our winners have created unique initiatives that support people with disabilities in low- and moderate-income communities.

“All of our winners demonstrated innovation, impact and inclusiveness that contributed not only to the vibrancy of their communities, but created economic and employment opportunities for people with disabilities as well.”

— Michael Roush, Director, Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development

Paraquad Job Training Center

The Paraquad Job Training Center, funded by the Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank, offers multiple tracks for individuals with diverse needs and goals to progress from pre-employment services to employment placement. Specifically, funding supported the Culinary Training Program, offered through Bloom Café, and its new initiative, the Computer Training Program, featuring a new partnership with St. Louis nonprofit, LaunchCode.

These two workforce programs strengthen Paraquad’s pre-employment services, providing people with disabilities the skills to seek and succeed in employment.

“We are honored to be recognized for the Inclusive Community Development Award. As we celebrate 30 years of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we acknowledge the inequities that still exist for people with disabilities, particularly around employment.

“The partnership with the Regions Foundation, LaunchCode and Paraquad expands opportunities by offering free tech education and job readiness training to people with disabilities in a supportive environment. Together, we are investing in the future of people with disabilities and I could not be more grateful.”

— Aimee Wehmeier, Paraquad President

“LaunchCode is committed to providing accessible pathways to family-sustaining tech careers for people of all backgrounds and experiences. As we continue to change the face of tech talent, we are thrilled to engage and train a dynamic group of students with disabilities through our partnership with Paraquad, Regions Foundation and Regions Bank.

“This effort is helping St. Louisans with disabilities into high wage, upwardly-mobile tech careers, and it’s also allowing LaunchCode to gain insight from Paraquad about better serving our students with disabilities in future classes. We are grateful for this opportunity to make our training more inclusive and welcoming to community members of all abilities.”

—  Jeff Mazur, Executive Director of LaunchCode

Iowa Able Foundation

The Iowa Able Foundation (IAF) dedicates its resources to remove the obstacles that prevent individuals with disabilities, their families and the aging to acquire assistive technology devices and services to achieve and maintain independence.

IAF’s approach to accomplish these objectives is to work in concert with companies, organizations, government agencies and other nonprofit organizations to produce outcomes for Iowans that otherwise would not be available. 

“The Iowa Able Foundation is proud of the partnership with Easterseals Iowa that values and supports the collaborative efforts to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve and maintain independence in their homes, workplaces and communities.

“It is for this reason that we are so pleased that Easterseals Iowa was selected as one of the awardees for the 2020 Inclusive Community Development Awards. The Easterseals team is so deserving of recognition for all their efforts to support individuals with disabilities overcome the financial obstacles to improve their lives.” 

— Anna Magnusson, Iowa Able Foundation Executive Director

“I am so thankful to work with such dedicated and compassionate team members in the Easterseals Assistive Technology Program. We would not be able to serve more than 3,000 Iowans annually without the support of great partners like Iowa Able.

“It is through this collaborative effort that we are able to make a life-changing difference for so many Iowans. We are so incredibly honored to be recognized for the Inclusive Community Development Award, and this would not have been possible without our partnership with Iowa Able Foundation.”

— Tracy Keninger, Rural Solutions and Assistive Technology Program Director, Easterseals Iowa

Houston Financial Inclusion Working Group

The goal of the Houston Financial Inclusion Working Group is to improve financial stability of LMI people with disabilities through actively engaging clients in mainstream financial products and services, promoting financial education to ensure accessibility and inclusion and help clients overcome credit barriers through financial resource fairs, webinars and workshops and one-on-one financial coaching through its partnering agencies. 

“I am very appreciative of this wonderful award to our Houston Financial Inclusion Working Group and to the Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development. We aim to grow a culture that fosters a greater awareness and appreciation of the unique backgrounds, styles and perspectives our employees offer. This award is very much appreciated and will be shared with all.” 

— Dora Cantu, Community Engagement, JPMorgan Chase

“Easter Seals Greater Houston is honored to accept this award on behalf of our Houston Financial Inclusion Working Group. I feel this national recognition will not only shed light on the important collaborative work we are doing for our disability community here in Houston, but hopefully create a spark for other cities to follow our lead and spearhead change for people with disabilities through similar community partnerships.” 

— Carmen Phillips, Montgomery County Program Coordinator and Housing/Financial Coach, Easter Seals Greater Houston

Evaluation Criteria

Nominations were evaluated on innovation, responsiveness, collaboration and impact in building a better financial future for people with disabilities and their families. Focus areas included: workforce development, affordable and accessible housing, small business development, financial literacy and counseling, adaptive technology, digital literacy and digital access.

The Center for Disability-Inclusive Community Development works to improve the financial health and well-being of low- and moderate-income individuals with disabilities and their families by increasing awareness and usage of the opportunities and resources available under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and other community development initiatives.

Launched in 2019, the Center is focused on the importance of inclusive community development activities. These include improving how the financial, community development and disability communities can work more closely together to respond to current financial and economic challenges and bringing attention to positive examples of CRA investment, lending and service that support financial resilience for LMI people with disabilities and their families.

In the next year, the Center’s work will remain focused on improving the financial health and well-being of LMI individuals with disabilities and their families by increasing awareness and usage of the opportunities and resources available under the CRA.

National Disability Institute focuses on the financial health and wellness of people with disabilities and their families. With an emphasis on poverty reduction, financial capability and financial inclusion, NDI continues to build extensive relationships between the disability and financial communities to focus on systems change, per the release.

[Source(s): National Disability Institute, PR Newswire]

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