Borealis Philanthropy and Ford Foundation Launch $1 Million Disability x Tech Fund to Advance Leadership of People With Disabilities in Tech Innovation
NEW YORK, NY - (February 28, 2023) — Today, Borealis Philanthropy and the Ford Foundation announced the launch of the $1 million Disability x Tech Fund, the only national fund supporting disability-led groups working to bring about transformational change at the intersections of disability rights, justice and technology.
The Disability x Tech Fund’s inaugural cohort of grantees is comprised of five disability-led organizations and two individual fellows addressing fieldwide harms that occur when people with disabilities are excluded from the development, deployment and governance of tech. Those include algorithmic bias that undermines access to necessary benefits, biometric surveillance that disproportionately punishes people with disabilities and barriers to participation in the digital economy, among others. The Fund’s grantees seek to address these harms through research, litigation strategies, accessible content creation and interpretation, and frontline community-developed open source platforms.
The Disability x Tech Fund was born out of a yearlong process led by an advisory committee made up of people with disabilities, representing a wide range of expertise and backgrounds at the intersection of technology, disability rights and justice. This advisory committee informed philanthropic investments from Borealis and Ford on strategies to address harms at the intersection of disability and technology, and it nominated and selected the inaugural cohort of grantees. In doing so, the Disability x Tech Fund models a vision for the world where the leadership of people with disabilities is not only considered but prioritized in technology development.
“Many people with disabilities live at the intersections of inequity, bias and discrimination, but we are often siloed from broader equity and justice movements,” said Sandy Ho, director of the Disability Inclusion Fund. “The Disability x Tech Fund intentionally supports disabled leaders who are most directly impacted by systems of oppression and who understand that we all do or will experience disability at varying times, to varying degrees. We fundamentally believe that disabled perspectives, innovation and expertise will strengthen efforts to advance technology solutions, eliminating ableism — which hinders broad and necessary possibilities for all human beings now and especially into the future.”
The Disability x Tech Fund will expand the participation, leadership and thought partnership of overlooked and under-resourced people with disabilities across the tech sector. The Fund is grounded in the belief that designing solutions for a more just and inclusive technology future requires an investment in the leadership, expertise and experiences of those who are most directly impacted by technology bias and discrimination. To that end, the Disability x Tech Fund supports organizations that are disability-led and disability-serving, particularly those led by Black, Indigenous and people of color; queer and gender nonconforming people; and women.
“This inaugural cohort represents the richness and diversity of leadership that exists within the disability rights and justice movement as well as the innovative, community-led work that is already happening across the country,” said Liz Henry, program manager for the Disability x Tech Fund.
The Disability x Tech Fund is proud to announce its first cohort of grantees:
- Autistic Women & Nonbinary Network is closing gaps in language accessibility of digital organizing tools to increase accessibility for autistic and disabled people who do not speak English and/or have intellectual or cognitive disabilities.
- CommunicationFIRST is launching the Technology for Equitable Communication Project to make communication technologies more inclusive and accessible.
- Community Legal Services fellow, Rieko Shepherd, in partnership with the Autistic People of Color Fund, is analyzing the use of algorithmic decision-making systems, automated tools and other artificial intelligence applications used in benefits eligibility determinations.
- CymaSpace is focused on making arts, media and culture accessible and inclusive to the Deaf and Disabled community through technology, education and outreach.
- Deaf Spotlight fellow, Topher Ávila, is increasing internet accessibility to ensure that essential information and digital organizing strategies are accessible for the Deaf, DeafBlind and DeafDisabled LGBTQ+ communities.
- Suma is partnering with frontline community members to create an open-source, web-based platform that will enable people with disabilities to participate in the digital economy and access essential goods and services.
- Surveillance Technology Oversight Project is advocating to ban the use of discriminatory surveillance technologies and ableist surveillance practices broadly through litigation, legislation, education and advocacy.
The Disability x Tech Fund is housed at Borealis Philanthropy under its Disability Inclusion Fund with support from the Ford Foundation. Launched in 2020, the Disability Inclusion Fund supports U.S.-run groups led by and for people with disabilities leading transformational change through movement building.
The Disability x Tech Fund builds on the Ford Foundation’s long support for the work of experts and advocates within the field of public interest technology and the 2021 launch of its U.S. Disability Rights program.
“Disability justice and technology justice are profoundly interconnected — we cannot achieve one without the other,” said Lori McGlinchey, director of Ford Foundation’s Technology and Society program. “Through the Disability x Tech Fund, we are supporting disabled leaders who are shaping a future where everyone can use technology to fully participate in our society, free from ableist bias and algorithmic discrimination. The Disability x Tech Fund was designed by, for and with disabled leaders, and we hope this initiative can serve as a model for philanthropy.”
For more information about the Disability x Tech Fund, visit: https://borealisphilanthropy.org/disability-inclusion-fund/
ABOUT THE DISABILITY INCLUSION FUND AND DISABILITY X TECH
The Disability Inclusion Fund supports U.S.-based groups run by and for people with disabilities to lead transformational change. The Fund is supported by donors including the Presidents’ Council on Disability Inclusion in Philanthropy, which is comprised of foundation presidents who are committed to disability inclusion as part of improving diversity, equity and inclusion within philanthropy. This newly launched initiative is housed at the Disability Inclusion Fund and supported by Ford Foundation’s Tech and Society Program.
ABOUT BOREALIS PHILANTHROPY
Borealis Philanthropy is a philanthropic social justice intermediary that works to resource grassroots leaders and social justice movements for transformative change. It helps funders expand their reach and strengthen their impact through donor collaboratives that support a variety of issues, communities and movements. Borealis is home to nine donor collaboratives, including the Disability Inclusion Fund.