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The Heinz Endowments and FISA Foundation award $245,000 in grants to advance disability inclusion and access

Pittsburgh, PA, June 25, 2020:  In a joint effort to promote a more just and equitable Pittsburgh, The Heinz Endowments and FISA Foundation have awarded nearly $250,000 in grants to encourage local organizations to be more inclusive and welcoming of people with disabilities. The funding, which was distributed this month, is part of Disability Inclusion and Access: Moving Forward, an initiative the foundations established last year. Highlighting that people with disabilities are already among many organizations’ participants, staff, volunteers, and donors, the initiative challenges nonprofits to consider the needs of people with disabilities and to remove barriers that may unintentionally keep people with disabilities out.

“The Heinz Endowments is committed to addressing racial justice and gender equity. This initiative has been an opportunity to broaden the focus to include people with disabilities and to help our grantees to recognize and remove accessibility barriers.  In being more inclusive, we only strengthen our diversity and equity efforts,” commented Carmen Anderson, the Endowments’ Chief Equity Officer.

The initiative launched in November with a full-day convening featuring national and local leaders who have advanced inclusion of people with disabilities and was followed by technical assistance provided through a series of “how-to” webinars and a curated directory of online resources. To further assist nonprofits in their accessibility journeys, the Endowments released a request for proposals intended to support nonprofits in being more welcoming and inclusive of people with disabilities.

“We were thrilled by the community response to Disability Inclusion & Access,” remarked Kristy Trautmann, Executive Director of FISA Foundation. “Nearly everyone who participated in the initiative learned something new that they could apply to their work. The grants will fuel specific efforts at twenty organizations to meaningfully welcome and include people with disabilities in their work.”

Grants awarded by The Heinz Endowments:

Assemble: $15,900 for a training program designed to develop the knowledge and attitudes of the organization’s staff to better support youth with disabilities and their families in its STEAM programming.

Chatham University: $3,000 for a training program for faculty and staff who seek additional support and specialized training to help meet the needs of autistic students.

Computer Reach: $10,500 for a project that will identify hardware and software technology solutions for people with disabilities, as well as to redesign the organization’s website and social media channels to be ADA-compliant.

Coro Center for Civic Leadership: $15,500 to create a more accessible and inclusive organization through staff, board, participant and partner training; consulting support for inclusive community engagement; and an assessment of organizational policies and communications.

Duquesne University: $2,500 for printing costs associated with the faculty desk reference guide, a tool to assist faculty in better meeting the needs of their students with disabilities.

Every Child: $15,000 to conduct an organizational assessment of communications, hiring, training, and policies, and then to implement a plan to ensure all are equitable, inclusive, and accessible.

Mattress Factory: $20,000 for the Accessibility and Wellness Initiative, a project that will assess current barriers to inclusion; pilot efforts in visitor services and education programming; and plan for improvements to facilities that provide greater access to art and education.

Neighborhood Allies: $10,000 to provide disability inclusion trainings to financial professionals and to improve participation by those in the disability community in programming and services that increase financial well-being.

Pauline Auberle Foundation: $18,996 to train three staff members in the best practice of customized employment, which offers people with disabilities an individualized plan and support to obtain employment.

Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy: $20,000 to improve the accessibility of the organization’s website and to train and certify staff through the Eppley Institute Parks & Public Lands accessibility program.

Point Park University: $20,000 for the All Arts Access Project, a multi-faceted initiative that will immerse, engage, and train the next generation of performing and technical artists in inclusive arts programming and increase access and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities in programming at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

Radiant Hall: $7,500 for the Disability Inclusion Roadmap, an initiative designed to reduce barriers to equitable participation in Radiant Hall’s artist support systems through board and staff training, education on best practices for supporting artists with disabilities, and conducting an organization assessment to identify areas for improvement.

Seton Hill University: $13,672 for equipment, software and training that will increase access and inclusion of current and prospective students, particularly those with visual and hearing impairments.

Sisters Place: $7,432 to develop and implement a plan to identify and remove barriers to inclusion of people with disabilities at the organization’s new location.

United Way of Southwestern PA: $20,000 for the Assessing Resource Access and Inclusion for People of Color with Disabilities project, a collaborative initiative with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, that will utilize data to identify obstacles to accessing resources and identify the scope of unmet needs of people of color with disabilities in the region.

Grants Awarded by FISA Foundation:

Evolve Coaching: $10,000 for the Creating Accessible Video Content Project, designed to train individuals with developmental disabilities in creating accessible video content.

Fayette County Community Action Agency: $1000 to improve the accessibility of the organization’s website.

Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania: $20,000 to create the Guide to Medical Independence website, a resource to educate and empower young adults with disabilities as they transition to adult health care.

New Century Careers: $10,000 to assess and improve the accessibility of the organization’s website to better include people with disabilities in its job training programs.

UPMC-Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: $4,050 for a project to assess physical access and non-structural barriers to care in outpatient physical medicine and rehabilitation clinics.


Kristy Trautmann

FISA Foundation


Carmen Lee

The Heinz Endowments


Background about the funding opportunity:

In February 2020, The Heinz Endowments, as part of Disability Inclusion and Access: Moving Forward, announced a Request for Proposals for grants of up to $20,000 to help organizations become more fully inclusive of individuals with disabilities. Areas of special interest to the Endowments include:

  • Organizational assessment to identify barriers to inclusion of people with disabilities and plans to address those barriers. Barriers often exist not only in physical environments, but also on website and social media platforms, in staff knowledge and attitudes, and in organizational policies and procedures. You may choose to conduct an overall assessment of your agency’s accessibility (from physical space to policy) or to have a more targeted focus (making your website accessible or doing a communications audit).
  • Development and implementation of plans to remove barriers and become more intentional about inclusion.
  • Training programs for staff, board members or volunteers to develop the knowledge and attitudes needed to assure participation of people with disabilities as clients and colleagues.
  • Support for the inclusion of people with disabilities as volunteers, board or staff members.

Please note that requests for funding to address physical barriers through improvements such as installing ramps will only be considered if the requests also include a training component for staff or some other parallel effort to create a more inclusive culture.

The primary goal of the funding is to make organizations that serve the broader community accessible to and inclusive of people with disabilities. Organizations that already focus on serving individuals with disabilities may apply for support to make their services more broadly accessible – for example an organization that provides mental health services might propose making their website accessible to individuals with vision disabilities.