Two-year Signature Employment Grant to demonstrate feasibility of reducing barriers to employment for people with disabilities, including those who have been involved in the justice system

East Hanover, NJ – April 3, 2019 –Kessler Foundation has awarded a two-year, $400,000 Signature Employment Grant to the Lester and Rosalie Anixter Center in Chicago to produce long-term change in healthcare and disability services systems. Their Inclusive Pathways Chicago: Healthcare is a demonstration project designed to assist healthcare workforce employers and their nonprofit partners in implementing equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies that will result in reducing barriers to employment for people with disabilities, especially those with previous justice system involvement.

The grant is part of $2.5million in grants awarded by Kessler Foundation in 2018 to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

With over 410,000 jobs, healthcare is the largest private-sector employer in the Chicago area. There is a high demand for workers with middle skill positions going unfilled for long periods. Conversely, there are over 400,000 working age individuals with disabilities living in the Chicago region. Almost 75% are unemployed.

The justice system involved population is three times more likely to report having a disability. Students with disabilities are three times as likely to be arrested before leaving school and twice as likely to drop out compared to other students attending Chicago public schools. These individuals face significant barriers to employment. However, once they secure meaningful employment, there likelihood of incarceration drops dramatically.

There is evidence of higher productivity, lower turnover, and identical average job performance ratings in this underutilized talent pool, when compared to workers without disabilities.

“People living with disabilities are striving to work,” explained Elaine E. Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, senior vice president for grants and communications at Kessler Foundation. “Our research indicates over 68% are currently working, looking for work, or have worked since the onset of their disability.”

Inclusive Pathways Chicago: Healthcare project is built upon the idea that nonprofit disability service providers are uniquely qualified to match employers seeking to hire diverse, dedicated talent and support long term retention of employees. These providers will embed workforce services directly into their employer and employment culture, expanding the scope of traditional human resources functions via a menu of support services and serving as an in-house training and technical assistance arm to address needs while reducing barriers.

“Employment services for our community members living with disabilities have not kept pace with their needs or the opportunities,” said Rebecca Clark, President and CEO of Anixter Center. “New models are necessary to ensure that they have access to the jobs that employers want filled and the support needed in order to be successful.”

Following completion of the demonstration model, collaborative relationships between educational, disability, and justice involved organizations will remain and serve as replicable examples to address employment needs of the healthcare industry and other employment sectors.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation, a major nonprofit organization in the field of disability, is a global leader in rehabilitation research that seeks to improve cognition, mobility and long-term outcomes, including employment, for people with neurological disabilities caused by diseases and injuries of the brain and spinal cord. Kessler Foundation leads the nation in funding innovative programs that expand opportunities for employment for people with disabilities. For more information, visit

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For more information, contact:

Kessler Foundation
Carolann Murphy, PA;

Kessler Foundation
Rob Gerth