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The Intersection Collective

Easterseals Intersection Collective: Disability + BIPOC Youth is an effort to develop more effective programming and research to support youth at the intersection of race and disability. Our goal is to close the gaps in educational attainment, health and social wellbeing, and equitable access to opportunity while supporting students of color with disabilities through advocacy and action.

Ignored, Punished, and Underserved

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

We identify four areas where educators, schools, and districts treat students of color with disabilities differently than their white and nondisabled peers: Identification, Placement, Discipline, Family engagement and support

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 a corner. They wouldn't interact with me much. - Brian, student from Chicago, IL

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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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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The Black Child Fund

An African American child, male, using a wheelchair and adaptive swing

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. 

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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Erika WatsonEasterseals Leadership

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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