Ford Adds People With Disabilities to Focus on Inequality

In its ongoing efforts to refocus its grantmaking on addressing inequality, the Ford Foundation has announced that it plans to include people with all types of disabilities into its work.

In a piece posted on the foundation's home page, the foundation's president, Darren Walker, noted that after the foundation announced its new focus on inequality last summer, several colleagues called attention to its lack of any acknowledgment of the inequities faced by people with disabilities. Walker further noted that many colleagues pointed out the foundation lacks a person with a visible disability on its leadership team, takes no affirmative effort to hire persons with disabilities, does not consider disabled people in its strategies, and does not provide people with physical disabilities adequate access to its website, events, social media, or landmark building on Manhattan's East Side. "It should go without saying," Walker writes, "[a]ll of this is at odds with our mission."

To address the oversight, which he blamed on "power, privilege, and ignorance — each of which multiplies the prejudicial effects of the other," Walker announced that the foundation will adopt a more inclusive perspective in all of its grantmaking — in effect adding another lens through which to view its efforts. To that end, the foundation will revisit the planned renovation of its building to ensure that it goes beyond the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and will address the needs of the disabled in its hiring practices. The foundation also will begin asking potential vendors and grantees to disclose their commitments to people with disabilities in the context of their efforts on diversity and inclusion.

"I had believed that our institution — all our people, all our processes — would serve as a check and balance against individual biases," Walker wrote. "I assumed, without really stopping to acknowledge my assumption, that issues I might overlook, or be ignorant of, would be raised by someone else — and that the space was there to raise them. It is clear to me now that this was a manifestation of the very inequality we were seeking to dismantle, and I am deeply embarrassed by it."