SEATTLE, Oct. 26, 2000 — As people with disabilities continue the struggle to obtain meaningful employment in the face of an enormously high unemployment rate, Microsoft Corp. today announced its latest round of grants as part of a program designed to improve the employment situation for individuals with disabilities. The announcement was made today at the Business Leadership Network national summit in Seattle, a conference of over 400 business and government leaders from across the nation. A total of $250,000 in grants are being awarded to nine innovative organizations across the country that are working in the area of employment for this traditionally overlooked and underutilized segment of workers.
According to a recent National Organization on Disability/Harris study, only 32 percent of the 17 million people with disabilities are currently employed, compared with 81 percent of the general population. More than two-thirds of those not employed say they would prefer to be working.
Technology access, career development and training are key elements in helping individuals with disabilities find meaningful employment and excel in the workplace. These organizations, which focus on employment opportunities in entrepreneurship, youth and training, recognize that technology plays an important part in their programs’ success.
Microsoft has long worked with the disability community to identify how technology can empower individuals in the workplace and has made a commitment to provide assistance to organizations that address employment issues for the disability community.
“We’re proud to have the opportunity to work with these organizations, some of whom are already having a great impact in providing employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities,”
said Bruce Brooks, director of Community Affairs at Microsoft.
“Their efforts will result in creative solutions to provide more opportunities, better career training for people with disabilities, and continued proof that people with disabilities have much to offer today’s labor pool.”
“There are many reasons that people with disabilities are experiencing a shockingly high unemployment rate in a period of prosperity,”
said Deborah Kaplan, executive director of the World Institute on Disability.
“A concerted effort is required to begin to change centuries of history that have equated disability with the inability to work. Microsoft’s commitment to funding projects that address employment issues is timely. The private sector must be a part of the solution.”
The grants, awarded through Microsoft’s Community Affairs department in conjunction with the company’s Accessible Technology Group, have been given to the following programs:
Community Options Inc.’s Entrepreneurs With Disabilities: Technology Business Incubator, Morristown, N.J. This project is designed to offer below-market-price office space, state-of-the-art technology systems and customized support services to individuals with disabilities interested in starting or growing a business.
Colorado High School/High Tech, a project of the President’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities, Denver. This project will provide intensive career development and work experience to 25 Denver-area students with disabilities who demonstrate aptitude for high-tech careers.
Los Angeles High School/High Tech, a project of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County Office of Education and the Screen Actors Guild Foundation will collaborate with entertainment industry leaders and employers to create training and employment opportunities for youth with disabilities in technology-related (nonacting) jobs.
World Institute on Disabilities’ Ticket to Work/Work Incentives Improvement Act (TWWIIA) Employment Project, Oakland, Calif. WID will produce training curricula on the TWWIIA (a law passed in 1999 to remove barriers keeping people with disabilities out of the work force) for potential employers of people with disabilities and for the benefit of counselors who work with Social Security beneficiaries. This training will help employers understand the new law and how to best work with their potential employees so that everyone benefits from TWWIIA. Microsoft will support this effort by partially funding the curriculum development and trainings.
Alliance for Technology Access, San Rafael, Calif. ATA will provide an estimated 3 million youth with disabilities, ages 16-22, with vital information regarding rights to computer and assistive technology for work and college. A printed guide and Web site will help youth identify career choices and develop new skills.
Center for Applied Special Technology and CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media — Accessible Training and Education on the Web: A Path to Independence and Success, Peabody and Boston, Mass. CAST and NCAM will reach out to companies and organizations to educate them about accessible Web design to ensure both employees and applicants with disabilities share in education and job advancement opportunities at workplaces throughout the country, by developing an online corporate training module and providing personalized on-site workshops.
National Business and Disability Council, Albertson, N.Y. NBDC will provide direct training/technical support for major corporations hiring individuals with disabilities.
National Organization on Disability’s Start on Success: Student Internship Program, Washington, D.C. For the past eight years, the Start on Success program has placed over 300 high school students with disabilities in paid internships with local employers. Over 80 percent of these interns have gone on to further employment and/or continued education. Microsoft will help to fund the paid internships of these students by providing funds that will cover the cost of salary for students during the eight to 30 weeks they intern. This has been a very successful program, with a majority of the interning students being hired to work for these local employers.
Ovation Fund, Woodstock, Conn. The Ovation Fund is a nonprofit venture philanthropy fund investing exclusively in exceptional entrepreneurs with disabilities. The fund will offer equity financing to early stage companies (generally Internet-related).
Over the past three years, Microsoft’s Accessible Technology Group, in conjunction with Microsoft’s Community Affairs department, has donated approximately $5 million in cash and software* to disability organizations and initiatives, like the ones announced today. Microsoft is proud of the progress these organizations have made in the areas of technology and work force training, job placement, career development, research and outreach to help people with disabilities achieve success through employment.
Created in 1983, Microsoft’s Community Affairs Program is one of the first philanthropic efforts in the high-tech industry. Overall, Microsoft seeks to empower people and communities in discovering a better future through technology. Last year, Microsoft gave more than $34.3 million in cash and $200 million in software to nearly 5,000 nonprofit organizations to improve technology access to underserved communities, to strengthen nonprofits through technology, and to expand and diversify the technology work force. The company encourages every employee to give to charity by matching, dollar for dollar, employee charitable contributions up to $12,000 per employee annually. More than 20,000 Microsoft employees participate in the program. More information on the Microsoft Giving Program is located at http://www.microsoft.com/giving/ .
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