The Intersection Collective

Intersectionality is a lens through which you can see where power comes and collides, where it interlocks and intersects. It’s not simply that there’s a race problem here, a gender problem here, and a class or LBGTQ problem there. Many times that framework erases what happens to people who are subject to all of these things. – Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, Columbia Law School

The Intersection Collective

Easterseals Intersection Collective is an effort to provide equitable access to services, opportunities, and resources for BIPOC children and adults with disabilities. To do so, Easterseals is developing effective programming, training and research to support inclusion at the intersection of race and disability. Our goal is to close the gaps in educational attainment, health, social wellbeing, and access while supporting people of color with disabilities through advocacy and action.

At Easterseals, we recognize that systemic transformation is key to create equitable outcomes. Partnership and collaboration is necessary. We are here to support you in taking practical, actionable steps to impact change in education, health care, and DEIA spaces.

The Big IDEA of Diversity and Inclusion

Encouraging diversity and inclusion in any learning environment, whether in a classroom or conference room, requires more than just a formula. It is a space that is full of nuance. The IDEA programs by Easterseals will guide you through often-overlooked nuances of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) and the centering of disability as part of the broader diversity conversation. By joining expert leaders, researchers, and educators for events and specialized trainings, we will highlight the experiences and learnings that fall at the intersection of race and disability, and you will come away with clear action steps to bringing IDEA concepts into the work you are doing in your community. As an employer, community member, service provider, or parent, you will be better able to advocate against overt and systemic racism, oppression, and inequities.

IDEA Convene + Easterseals

Events and Networking

Easterseals has partnered with The Aspen Institute to create IDEA Convene + Easterseals, a suite of professional development offerings for senior leaders who want to grow in their understanding of accessibility, inclusion, and equity. These events and programs draw from the rich 100+ years of knowledge Easterseals has gained from supporting people with disabilities and their families.

IDEA Convene events and resources cover best practices for cultivating an inclusive organizational culture that prioritizes disability and diversity as a value driver. Attendees will benefit from idea exchanges, business case discussions, and keynote lectures. The first convening is planned for June 16 at The Aspen Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

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IDEA Path + Easterseals

Virtual Learning

IDEA Path is an annual subscription virtual learning platform that incorporates individual assessments, web-based workshops and presentations, and group coaching to support senior leaders and managers in creating their own DEIA learning journeys. By exploring IDEA Path courses, you will discover quality coaching, customizable learning experiences, and assessment tools that will give you what you need to advance accessibility and inclusion in your team culture, classroom, or workplace. More Information coming soon!

Easterseals and Inclusion Advocacy

Special Education Advocacy Training

Easterseals has partnered with researchers and special education experts on its Collaborative on Racialized Disability (CORD) on a training for special education advocates and parents looking to understand how anti-Black racism interferes with educational supports. Sign up today.

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Black children with autism are less likely to be identified at an early age, according to research by the U.S. Disease Control and Prevention. #InclusiveEd

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Learning Library for Parents

Easterseals is proud to be an organization that advocates for societal and systemic equality for all people, no matter what ability or racial background. Take a look at our past conversations, events and resources to assist parents in advocating for their child.

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Black children with autism were five times as likely to have been misdiagnosed with behavior disorders. #InclusiveEd

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The Black Child Fund

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At Easterseals, our main goal is to ensure that all people, no matter what background or ability, are 100% included and 100% empowered. Unfortunately, we still live in a society with systemic inequities that create significant barriers for minorities, especially minorities with disabilities.

That is why we've established the Black Child Fund — to help end racial disparities in healthcare, childcare, and education faced by Black children early and throughout life. Through this Fund, we've begun the initial phase of a special education advocate training course, developed through our partnership with researchers from the Collaborative on Racialized Disability (CORD), which addresses the pressing need to serve Black students with disabilities and their families. This is just the beginning.

In the wake of COVID-19, racial inequities are exacerbated. During this time in history when systems that provide healthcare, education, and childcare are under unprecedented stress, we are seeking $5 million in support from visionary partners to act now in addressing issues with lasting consequences. We thank our current funders: The Abbott Fund, Comcast, and the Kellogg Foundation.

Ignored, Punished, and Underserved

Understanding and Addressing Disparities in Education Experiences and Outcomes for Black Children with Disabilities

Four areas where educators, schools, and distracts treat students of color with disabilities differently than their white and nondisabled peers:

Bellwether and Easterseals Bellwether and Easterseals

Inclusion starts with listening. We know how important it is to fully understand the barriers Black children with disabilities often face in order to properly address them. That's why we've partnered with Bellwether, an organization that shares our belief in 100% equity and access for all children, including those who are often underserved. Together, we created a report entitled "Ignored, Punished, and Underserved: Understanding and Addressing Disparities in Education Experiences and Outcomes for Black Children with Disabilities." This report shares insights from families, qualitative research, quantitative data, and interviews with scholars, advocates, and school leaders to better understand the educational experiences of children of color with disabilities, with a particular focus on Black students.

School staff of different races appeared to be afraid of me because of my size and dark color of my skin. Therefore, quite often, I am pushed to the side or placed in the corner. They wouldn’t interact with me much. — Brian, Student from Chicago, IL
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Additional Resources

Racial Equity and Disability

One in four Americans today are living with disability, and of those, one in four are Black Americans. We also recognize the nuanced and challenging barriers that exist for minorities, and the need to bring visibility and perspective to those issues.

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Education Services

Through a national network of Affiliates, Easterseals provides essential services and on-the-ground supports to more than 1.5 million people each year – from early childhood programs for the critical first five years, to autism services, to medical rehabilitation and employment programs, to veterans services and more.

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Make the First Five Count

The first five years of a child’s development lay the foundation for their overall success. We are here to support you in your child’s wellness and in navigating those first five years.

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Easterseals Leadership

Erika L. Watson

National Director for Childhood Development, Education, and Equit

Erika Watson

Erika L. Watson is the National Director for Childhood Development, Education, and Equity at Easterseals National Office. In her current role at Easterseals, Watson leads The Black Child Fund aimed to improve the lives of children of color with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and their families. Prior to joining Easterseals, Watson worked for iMentor as Executive Director National Partnerships where she built partnerships and programs to help first generation high school graduates get to and through college using mentoring as a tool to their success. Watson spent several years at Leadership for Educational Equity where she led regional teams in their efforts to disrupt systems of educational inequality through advocacy, policy, and elected leadership. Watson served on the Equitable Nutrition in Schools advisory council to First Lady Michelle Obama. Watson’s visionary leadership reaches beyond the education sector to include women’s issues and equitable access to employment opportunities. In 2002, she founded Dress for Success in Washington, DC, a not-for-profit focused on helping unemployed and underemployed women build skills and secure meaningful career opportunities. To date, Dress for Success has helped more than 30,000 women in the Capitol community on the path to financial self-sufficiency. She holds an MBA from George Washington University and a BS from Howard University.

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