To serve as an educator, convener, and resource that works collaboratively to ensure communications and information access in service of individuals who are Deaf or disabled.
To transform the field of communications and information access so that all individuals can realize their right and ability to receive information and express themselves.
Headquartered in Oakland, California, Ability Central is the philanthropic division of the California Communication Access Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 2003. We are the only foundation working exclusively on improving communication and information access for individuals who are Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent and their communities of support.
We’re a small (and growing!) team with decades of experience in grantmaking, tech consulting, and community building within the disability and philanthropy space. Our staff works in person from our HQ in uptown Oakland and remotely from all over the United States.
Barry Saudan, President
Jesus M. Gonzalez, Chair
Celia C.J. Solis, Vice Chair
Sarah Slaughter, Treasurer
Dr. Philip Prinz
Sofia M Vergara Ed.D
Barry Saudan, Chief Executive Officer
Matt Cherry, Director of Philanthropy
David Kehn, Director of Systems and Technology
Jessie Galloway, Program Officer
Geoff Butterfield, Web Program Manager
Grant Barringer, Communications Manager
Stephen Prestwood, Cloud Consulting Practice Manager
Across three multi-faceted programs, we award funds to organizations that serve and support people with disabilities, provide digital disability education and information tools, and offer CRM implementation and maintenance services to organizations that serve the disability community.
For more than a decade, Ability Central has been funding communication access projects supporting Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent communities and their families and caregivers. Supporting primarily organizations in the state of California, we focus our efforts in a variety of fields to maximize the impact and diversity of our work.
Whether we are expanding the services we offer through our Web Portal by leveraging partnerships with our community allies, convening disability leaders locally and nationally to identify future funding priorities, or working to build business tools that create inclusion for disabled nonprofit staff, we are committed to our mission.
We have our work cut out for us; there’s a long way to go to create an accessible, inclusive world for all. Until then, we celebrate the accomplishments of our staff, partners, and grantees in 2022.
Since 2010, our Philanthropy program has been awarding funding to community-based nonprofit or educational organizations in California that establish projects and programs designed to benefit the communication needs of Californians of all ages with disabilities.
Our Portal project is a comprehensive digital resource that offers disability information across a variety of functions, including mobile device accessibility data, disability service organizations, and events for the disability community.
Our Cloud Consulting program helps nonprofits identify, implement, and learn to use cloud-based CRM solutions (like Salesforce) to achieve their missions more effectively and efficiently.
Throughout 2022, our Grantmaking program adapted to the needs of our community, with funding allocated to an exciting variety of fields, including machine learning, education, mental health, and more. The stage is set for the organizations we fund to continue making an impact into 2023 and beyond. Ability Central’s program officer Jessie Galloway shares her perspective:
As the program officer at Ability Central, I am thrilled to share the incredible impact of our 2022 grantee partners. They dedicated themselves to improving access and services for people with disabilities in California and beyond, and their commitment is bringing remarkable work to fruition. As in 2021, the grantees exceeded their goals, serving thousands more people than anticipated.
In 2022, our grantees produced:
Thanks to their efforts, more people with disabilities have been able to access vital services and resources that were previously out of reach. Judy Heumann’s wise words remind us that change takes persistence and partnership:
Rest in power, Judy!
Our grantee partners demonstrate that they have what it takes to make lasting impact. I am incredibly proud of their accomplishments and look forward to their future work. Thank you, grantees, for your incredible work and partnership. Ability Central is proud to be a partner with these organizations that work tirelessly to create necessary change.
People with disabilities served by funded projects
Family members served
Awarded to fund project grants
Organizations received funding
Allocated to 7 rapid response mini-grants
In 2022, Ability Central funded a joint research project that has the potential to impact more than 5 million people.
People in the United States who cannot rely alone on speech to be heard and understood are not counted in any systematic manner by federal or state governments. Failing to accurately track our characteristics, access to services and supports, and unmet needs makes it impossible for policymakers and advocates to appreciate and address the challenges, barriers, and intersectional discrimination we grapple with each day.
The information gathered over the course of this project is organized into two reports and a set of policy recommendations.
This first report, The Urgent Need for Better Data, examines current federal and state-level data collection on people who need augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
The second, What Existing Data Can and Cannot Tell Us, assesses how the questions identified by the AAC Counts project as vital for effective policymaking are, or are not, answered by existing research. Taken together, these reports reveal both data inequities as well as inequity in the everyday experience of people who need AAC and provide paths forward for addressing these issues.
The mission of the Autism Society Inland Empire is to improve the lives of ALL affected by autism in the Inland Empire. They provide critical programs and services for children and adults with autism and their family members across the lifespan in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. As many as 30 percent of Autistic children/adults have nonspeaking Autism (nonverbal autism) or are minimally verbal. Imagine being lost or in a disaster and not being able to communicate with a First Responder. Surprisingly, there was no standard AAC/visual support resources for health, medical, and emergency situations in the community.
In partnership with Ability Central, Autism Society Inland Empire developed a workgroup of AAC users, family members, professionals, and First Responders to create a printed resource that can be included in a Sensory Toolkit for First Responders and coupled that with hands-on trainings to communicate and de-escalate situations with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities without using force.
276 First Responders attended the trainings. 490 families were served, and over 1500 people with disabilities benefitted from these trainings. The success of the trainings created a high demand, and the Autism Society Inland Empire plans to expand the trainings locally and nationally.
One-third of all persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DDs) have a psychiatric disorder, affecting their daily functioning (National Association of Developmental Disabilities (NADD) 2018). The COVID-19 pandemic has added stressors for people with I/DDs due to further isolation and lack of routine.
Lack of training in alternative communication tools and working with people with I/DDs creates a gap in access to traditional talk therapy and can lead to mental health crises.
The Down Syndrome Connection of the Bay Area (DSCBA) seeks to address the gap in mental health services for people with Down syndrome and other I/DDs and their families through a new program, the Mental Health and Wellness Alliance (MHWA). The MHWA is a collaborative approach between agencies that serve those with I/DDs and the mental health community. It offers access to training, tools, materials, communication systems, and ongoing support. As a result, people with Down syndrome and other I/DD will be able to access and navigate high-quality mental health services. They will also be in a better position to communicate their needs to mental health providers. The MHWA consists of several integrated components:
DSCBA has solicited input on the development of this program from youth and adults with Down syndrome. Many shared about their struggles with loneliness and difficulty adapting to changes brought on by the pandemic as well as their own transitions into adulthood, which were leading to anxiety, depression, and other issues.
More people with Down syndrome received therapy than projected. DSCBA succeeded in providing communication-supported therapy for 36 individuals with Down syndrome and 20 family members. They trained 15 mental health clinicians in working with people with Down syndrome and other I/DDs and who have varying communication needs by developing systems and protocols, creating or adapting communication and storyboards, therapy modalities, and outcomes measurement tools. DSCBA’s primary partner in this project was Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center. They will expand the program in 2023 with continued funding from Ability Central.
DSCBA has developed an online resource filled will samples of low-tech boards, visual supports, and social stories to complement therapy sessions. Customized boards are available by contacting Marianne@dscba.org
This training covers the unique needs of individuals with Down syndrome and other I/DDs and their families as it pertains to communication in psychotherapy sessions. Various visual supports and augmentative alternative communication (AAC) systems will be introduced along with strategies for implementation.
In 2022, Ability Central offered rapid response Access Improvement Grants. These mini-grants provide short-term funding ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 that aims to help smaller nonprofits increase the participation of people with disabilities in their events and programs.
With an Access Improvement Grant, Disability Voices United was able to ensure accessibility at their conference, Breaking Through Barriers: Advancing Self-Determination – A Statewide Virtual Conference, that included people with communication disabilities from diverse communities, not only as attendees, but as speakers and experts on their lived experience, the systems that serve them, and the solutions to barriers that those systems frequently present.
A total of 829 people registered for the conference. All sessions holistically incorporated the needs of people with communication disabilities. Ability Central’s funding ensured the participation of Deaf and hard-of-hearing self-advocates who needed ASL interpretation.
Learn more about Ability Central’s grantmaking.
2022 was an exciting year for the Portal program. After years of tireless work, multiple iterations, and a beta testing period, we were proud to launch the Ability Central Portal to the public. Offering a suite of ultra-accessible features, the Portal is a first-of-its-kind web experience. With disability and accessibility information on mobile devices, a nationwide database of organizations offering services to people who are Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent, an event calendar, and a comprehensive digital library with articles, fact sheets, and more, the Portal is poised to make a substantial impact for our disability community.
We are excited about the upgrades we’re already making to the Portal in 2023. Our vision for this website is huge, and we look forward to sharing the Portal with more of our stakeholders, community members, and the general public in the coming year.
Devices with comprehensive accessibility information
Organizations nationwide offering services to people with disabilities
Online and in-person events by and for the disability community
Articles and resources across 13 disability categories
Visit the Ability Central Portal today!
In 2022, our Cloud Consulting program experienced tremendous growth in capacity to deliver custom solutions through the Reach for the Cloud grant program. We awarded grants totaling more than $100,000 for in-kind Salesforce consulting services.
Some highlights from 2022:
As our clients evolve and innovate their programs serving Deaf and disabled communities, our team of consultants continues to grow along with them. We are always discovering new ways to leverage technology to support their efforts. The Salesforce platform provides the stability and flexibility our clients need to expand their reach and consistently deliver services that impact communities of people with disabilities.
Since Ability Central began implementing fundraising solutions, almost $12 million in donations have been received by our clients, more than $500,000 in donations in 2022 alone.
Additionally, we have helped our clients increase their grant opportunities year over year allowing them to offer the programs, workshops, and service offerings their clients need.
Hours spent delivering custom solutions
Market value of Salesforce solutions delivered
Support cases resolved
Grant opportunities tracked
Value of grants tracked
The Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CCBVI) provides people who are blind or visually impaired the ability to re-establish purpose and self-esteem in their lives and in society, while leading independent lives. CCBVI accomplishes this by administering workshops for young adults who are graduating and advancing, summer camps for kids, and free-of-charge classes for individuals pursuing educational or vocational goals.
They also provide programs that offer assistive devices that allow older individuals who are visually impaired to maintain their independence, empowerment, and full inclusion.
CCBVI had an existing Salesforce implementation that was not being leveraged to help CCBVI meet their goals. CCBVI reached out to Ability Central, and proposed the following:
Ability Central showed CCBVI how to streamline CCBVI’s capabilities in marketing and resource development while reducing costs associated with staff members having to perform repetitive manual data entry tasks. Their centralized Salesforce environment was then able to provide them with a clearer and more accurate picture of their data allowing them to maximize their fundraising efforts, broaden their donor base, and execute marketing strategies that will increase awareness of the agency’s mission.
Learn more about Ability Central’s Cloud Consulting program.
In 2022, we took on the mission of creating awareness and visibility of communication access issues, highlighting the exclusion of people with disabilities and the opportunities that the shift to inclusion brings. Over the course of the year, we presented at international conferences, penned an op-ed, and created a short film for a funder’s film festival.
Check out some of our highlights from a year of creating awareness!
We presented at conferences in a variety of industries, from human rights to technology, all over the world.
Digital Strategy Summit
Nonprofit Technology Conference
We hosted or co-hosted webinars for membership groups and internal teams.
PEAK Grantmaking NorCal
Northern California Grantmakers
Exponent Philanthropy Annual Conference
Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau
We launched a disability info campaigns on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, bringing awareness of signs, symptoms, diagnoses, and support options for many disabilities.
We penned an op-ed.
And, we created a short film for the Outsize Impact Film Festival at Exponent Philanthropy’s Annual Conference.
Watch the film below!
We’re on a mission to expand information and communications access for people who are Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent. What does that mean? We want all people, regardless of disability, to have equitable access to all that life has to offer. Employment, income, support, entertainment, digital communication, and much more. Ability Central is working to empower disabled communities, but we can’t do this alone.
There are a few ways you can help us advance our mission. Your support allows us to create more programs, offer more funding, and provide more resources that create a more inclusive and equitable future for all.
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