Ability Central makes grants to improve communication and information access for people who are Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent. Since 2010, Ability Central has provided more than $12.5 million in support of 200+ projects, serving more than 555,000 people with disabilities.
Ability Central only funds nonprofit organizations operating in California.
We value our grantees as partners and provide practical support in addition to our funding. We encourage the input, collaboration, and knowledge exchange of our partners through regular communication and grantee meetings. Additionally, we uplift and highlight the impact of our grantee partners throughout our digital presence, at conferences, in our newsletter, and in our annual impact report. We also require grantees to participate in at least one in-person grantee gathering during the year of their grant award, and another one the following year, to share ideas, needs, and lessons with other grantees.
Our 2024 funding cycle for Communication Access projects encourages leadership development projects, healthcare training projects, and innovation and digital accessibility improvement for people with communication disabilities. We award our major grants on an annual basis. We also offer rapid response grants for communication accessibility with a month-long approval on a rolling basis (until funds are expended) year-round.
Take a look at our funding categories to learn more.
2024 Communication Access Grants
LOI Applications accepted May 26, 2023 – July 12, 2023 at 5pm Pacific
1. Innovation and digital accessibility projects.
Our major funding encourages the implementation of innovative technologies, services, and solutions benefiting people with disabilities. Grant awards range between $10,000 and $100,000.
Ability Central defines innovation as the development of a new concept into a valuable solution that expands access for people with disabilities when applied and scaled. We encourage innovation with the potential to impact people far beyond the initial study or pilot participants.
We are not currently funding research projects or studies that are not yet ready to be implemented.
Digital accessibility makes it easier for people with communication disabilities to access information, communicate effectively, engage in app-based programs, and participate fully in the digital world.
Projects eligible for funding can include:
- Designing interfaces and applications that can be navigated and operated with assistive technologies such as screen readers, screen magnifiers, alternative input devices, or switch control systems, allowing individuals with disabilities to access and interact with digital content effectively.
- Providing a clear and consistent structure, well-organized content, and intuitive navigation features on a digital platform, enabling individuals with cognitive or learning disabilities to locate and access information efficiently.
- Offering options for users to personalize a digital interface, adjust font sizes, colors, contrast, or other visual settings, and control the pace of content delivery, accommodating individual preferences and needs.
- Testing and Validation: Conducting regular accessibility assessments and user testing involving individuals with communication disabilities to identify and address barriers, ensuring that digital content and platforms meet recognized accessibility standards and guidelines.
If you are proposing website or app accessibility, the content must have a distinct purpose that serves people with disabilities.
We prioritize projects that employ human-centered, universal design by involving the perspectives of people with disabilities in all steps of the process. We seek cutting-edge technology that will benefit everyone by including people with disabilities from the start. Planning and testing must include people with disabilities, and people with disabilities must be compensated.
As part of the grant requirements, grantees need to publicly share the results of their project to benefit the greater community by producing at least one of these:
- Open-sourcing (making specifications of a device, app, or program available for public use or modification)
2. Developing and training healthcare professionals in strategies and tools that improve access to care for people with communication disabilities.
We are looking for projects to develop, train, and implement resources and programmatic models for people with disabilities who communicate and access information via methods such as braille, screen readers, American Sign Language (ASL), tactile interpreters, co-navigators, and/or Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).
This project is intended to train and equip healthcare professionals and healthcare systems with the knowledge, accessible resources, and multi-modal communication partner strategies to improve culturally responsive care for patients with communication disabilities and their care teams. These projects should be replicable and include people with disabilities in the planning, training, and implementation.
We encourage projects that incorporate these elements:
- Person-Centered Approach: Successful culturally responsive healthcare training projects for people with communication disabilities should prioritize a person-centered approach. This means that the training should focus on the individual needs and preferences of the person, and the training should empower the person to be an active participant in their healthcare decisions.
- Communication Access: Successful projects should prioritize and understand access needs. This includes accommodations such as sign language interpreters, captioning, assistive technology, etc., that allow individuals to communicate effectively with healthcare providers.
- Collaboration: Healthcare training projects should involve multidisciplinary collaboration to ensure that all aspects of a person’s health needs are addressed. This could include collaborating with healthcare administration, front line staff such as doctors, nurses, medical assistants, behavioral health therapists, social workers, occupational therapists, appointment schedulers, and/or other professionals whose interactions impact the medical care of individuals with communication disabilities.
- Ongoing Evaluation: Successful projects should include ongoing evaluation to ensure that the training is effective and meets the needs of individuals with communication disabilities. This includes collecting feedback from both healthcare providers and individuals with communication disabilities to identify areas for improvement and make necessary adjustments to the training.
3. Career and leadership development projects for people with communication disabilities.
We are seeking strong, scalable, and replicable projects that provide supportive and fairly-compensated career training opportunities for people with communication disabilities.
We seek projects that:
- Demonstrate understanding of the unique challenges faced by people with communication disabilities in accessing career development opportunities.
- Utilize innovative and effective strategies for providing support to participants with communication disabilities throughout the career training process.
- Have or will establish partnerships with relevant stakeholders, including self-advocates, disability organizations, employers, colleges, and/or training institutes.
- Include accommodations (interpreters, screen reader-friendly documents, AAC, etc.) and project staff/mentors that are familiar with them to enhance accessibility and participation.
- Incorporate a person-centered approach, considering the individual strengths, preferences, and goals of participants with communication disabilities.
- Measure outcomes and evaluation methods to assess the effectiveness of the career training program and its impact on participants’ employment outcomes.
- Plan for sustainability beyond the grant period, including strategies for long-term funding, partnerships, and ongoing support for participants.
- Describe the project’s scalability, indicating the potential for expansion and replication in other settings or regions.
- Commit to a disability inclusion framework within their organization.
Rapid Response Grants
1. Access Improvement Grants
Applications are currently closed and will reopen on July 1, 2023.
Ability Central offers rapid response Access Improvement Grants on a rolling basis for organizations or projects serving people with communication disabilities.
These mini grants provide short-term funding ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 with a turnaround of roughly one month from application receipt. These rapid response grants aim to help smaller nonprofits (especially those with a budget less than $1 million) increase the participation of people with disabilities in their events and programs.
Examples of expenses covered by rapid response Access Improvement Grants:
- Staff accessibility training
- Audio description of materials
- ASL interpreters
- DeafBlind Co-Navigators
- Sensory or tactile experience rooms for socio-emotional learning
- Grant range: $1,000 – $5,000
- Rolling cycle; released July 1, 2023, and accepting proposals through June 30, 2024
- Organizations are limited to a maximum award of $5,000 in any given cycle
- 4-week estimated turnaround for Ability Central to review applications
- We prioritize organizations with budgets less than $1M
- No match required