Three Steps to a More Inclusive Community

by Ruthie Rotenberg

In March, at the JFN Conference in Israel, I was privileged to join a group of funders on a site visit to several inclusive programs in the Tel Aviv area. Each program we visited was incredible in how they focused on creating a more inclusive community, supportive and inclusive of individuals with disabilities and their families. From world-renowned playgrounds that are fun to play on for all children, to finding ways to allow adults with disabilities to live independent lives – we saw a cross section of the incredible work happening in Israel. Since that visit, I have been thinking of ways we can all bring these lessons home, and make our own communities more inclusive.

Today I offer a challenge to all funders, especially those who don’t focus their funding on disability-related programs. My challenge has three steps, which can be implemented over your next three grant cycles.

1. Ask questions about accessibility and inclusiveness of the programs you plan to fund.

Asking the “right” question can be a powerful tool for change. When grant-seekers consistently see and need to respond to questions about the accessibility and inclusiveness of their programs, it will influence how they design their programs. When an application forces them to confront who they unintentionally exclude, they can begin to change their programs to be more inclusive, and in future applications proudly describe how their program is open to all.

2. Read the answers.

Consider the answers to these questions when evaluating grant applications. If all funders considered inclusion in their decision making, we could spark big change in our community. A starting point could be deciding to only support programs that are wheelchair accessible or programs that offer ASL interpreters.

3. Omit the questions!

This step comes when the questions are no longer necessary because we have created a community that is inclusive of people regardless of their talents, abilities, challenges, and differences – and this can’t come soon enough!

Below are examples of questions you can include in grant applications to build awareness and (hopefully) spark change through asking the ‘right’ questions.

Suggested questions:

  • Is your program in an accessible venue?
  • Is your office accessible?
  • Do you ask program participants if they need basic accommodations, like ASL interpreters, and do you know how to provide them? (Is there a place to make this request on your programs’ registration forms?)
  • Does your staff receive inclusion training? If so, what kind of training do they receive?

If we all make these small changes to our grantmaking processes, and share our commitment with our network of funders, we’ll build a Jewish community that is truly welcoming of people regardless of their abilities and challenges.

Ruthie Rotenberg is Director of Peer Networks and Strategic Relationships at the Jewish Funders Network.