The Ford Foundation-funded Disability Justice Interdependent Learning Lab (DJILL) goal is to mobilize people with disabilities engaging our allies, assets, and synergies to transform systems, services, perceptions, and possibilities for disabled people.
What is a Learning Lab?
We don’t claim to be experts. We want to try out ideas – some that reflect our core values that have dreamed about for years, but have been up-to-now, just beyond our reach. We envision emerging leaders with BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, immigrant, and other marginalized identities that intersect with disability. We want to intentionally welcome people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to our ranks. We will explore ways to address gaps experienced by people with disabilities and find allies who will join the journey and struggle for rights and equal access to enjoy careers, home, community, and fun lives.
Nobody is truly independent. We rely on each other in almost every aspect of our lives. Interdependence recognizes the power of reciprocal relationships between people with and without disabilities as we interact, relate, and draw upon our energies and capabilities to reach a greater goal.
We will conduct our work and learn by doing with well-established independent living and grassroots frameworks. We will modify current examples that follow the concepts and principles of community organizing laid out by organizers like Paolo Freire and Saul Alinsky and fit these examples to modernized independent living tenets to:
- Mobilize disabled people, particularly those experiencing the intersectionality of disability with BIPOC, LGBTQ+, TGNC, ID/DD, socioeconomic insecurity, and other characteristics of marginality.
- Support potential and emerging leaders from diverse disability communities as they identify justice issues, study causes and potential solutions, identify possible assets and allies, and work together to not only change policy but also the systems and programs that uphold and stem from it.
- Develop tools, templates and processes to assist multiply marginalized people in accessing economic freedom, financial stability, interdependent communities and networks, and wealth. This could include entrepreneurship, creative approaches to employment, and solutioning to break down barriers that limit income and create poverty, particularly for those who rely on public programs for caregiving.
- Position ourselves as key stakeholders in the creation of model interdependent communities in a combination of affordable housing, educational, community-based health, technological, other planning initiatives. Current examples in Northern Virginia are Amazon HQ2, Landmark Alexandria, and Affordable Housing Arlington.
Agents of Change
An intersectional group of emerging leaders engaging in dialogue to identify disability justice issues and systemic inequalities in opportunities, quality of life and community inclusion experienced by people with disabilities, particularly in marginalized communities. Through the lab, these emerging leaders analyze, strategize and actively engage in identifying solutions to key issues. Their projects will work to mobilize the disability community and allies to push the levers for community victories and public perception supported by narratives, policy shifts and system adjustments.
We can’t create change by ourselves. We need creative ideas, determination, and shared strength to up-end the status quo. We will learn what can happen when we join forces with other grassroots advocates.
Multicultural Families was founded by Executive Director, Rosalia Fajardo in 2010 to ensure that all children will have access to a great education and successful life, through family, school, community and business partnerships including children with disabilities. Through information and partnerships families and their children can envision how their hopes and dreams can become their future realities.
For years, free programs, applying multifaceted programs focused on providing families with the knowledge, tools and inspiration to help their children succeed in school and in life. They have helped families of diverse ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds grow as individuals, parents and leaders.
The initial intent with this first grassroots accelerator was for Multicultural Families to become its own nonprofit. Joining forces, we quickly capitalized on each other’s strengths bringing disability advocacy and support to Latino and other immigrant families within Director Rosalia Fajardo’s networks. Rosalia quickly decided that she she and Multicultural Families could accomplish more by joining ECNV. We have now officially joined forces and are stronger together.
Our Stomping Ground
Our Stomping Ground’s (OSG’s) mission is to build inclusive communities and strengthen neighborhoods through diverse programming, sustainable, affordable housing, and social spaces for people of all abilities. This organization was founded and operated for its first two years with no outside funding. Their early growth has been breath-taking. They have opened four communities in affordable apartment complexes that have set-aside housing for people with disabilities. OSG and ECNV are building on each organization’s strengths and assets to up-end the status quo for people with disabilities. We are both the founding partners on the Interdependent Community Coalition and ECNV is working with them to bring transportation training, strengthen the personal care attendant network, support jobs for people with disabilities and many other joint projects.
We are supporting Hearthstone as they incorporate as a 501(c)(3) and pursue funding supports. Hearthstone will support disability justice and interdependent living with an overall objective of increasing access and opportunities for interdepent living for people with disabilities shifting mindsets about how they enrich their communities. The Project will aim to do so through a focus on:
- Access to adequate housing and innovation in housing choice that meets the needs and wants of the community.
- Recommendations to policy advocates for proposed mutually beneficial solutions that increase access to housing by pushing the parameters of existing development cycles, building codes,and zoning ordinances.
- Advancement of interdependent and inclusive spaces, building, and interdependent communities through universal design principles in education and industry
Trusted Disability Network
Through a grant from the Virginian Board for People with Disabilities, we formed a trusted disability network to partner with organizations who do not typically operate in the “disability space” to disseminate information and help us organize around pop-up covid vaccination events. The Disability Justice grant funded the match to support this initiative. Almost all the organizations we mobilized represented marginalized groups including Dreamers, Tenants and Workers, health community workers, and others who agree to help us reach marginalized individuals with disabilities in their communities who were interested in helping us with outreach to people with disabilities in their communities.
We started a Trusted Disability Champion, recruiting people with disabilities to provide outreach and assistance through a Covid-19 Vaccination effort, using Ford Foundation funding to consider how people with disabilities can move into disability services careers. We currently support people with developmental and other disabilities, intentionally recruiting individuals from BIPOC, immigrant and other marginalized communities to support a career pathways in the disability services field.
Interdependent Community Coalition of National Landing
Goal: To create an inclusive community where people with and without disabilities can live, work, play and contribute to the vibrancy of the new National Landing community.
Everything seems to be under construction at National Landing – ECNV’s new Arlington neighborhood. ECNV and Our Stomping Ground decided that this offers a unique opportunity to create an Interdependent Community Coalition. Interdependence means that we want a community where people with and without disabilities interact and relate, drawing from each person’s contribution to reach a greater goal.
This initiative started as more of an idea than a reality. Our Stomping Ground (OSG) and ECNV decided to invite leaders from business, community, and government to a social hour to gauge interest and support for a new and growing National Landing neighborhood that embraces and welcomes everyone. We envision a neighborhood with:
- Accessible wheelchair ramps and curb cuts so people in strollers, scooters, bikes and wheelchairs can easily navigate
- Easy-to-read signs for people who are driving, strolling, or taking public transportation.
- Apps like google maps and way finders for people with and without disabilities to find their way to cool amenities and activities
- Help for employers who need to fill thousands of job openings and recognize the value of hiring reliable and able people with disabilities.
- Builders interested in applying universal design principles so that people with disabilities or those “aging in place” can live, work, and play at National Landing
- Restaurant, retail and recreation and other businesses who understand that universal design and accessibility can lead to a wider and diverse customer base
When we started, we weren’t sure who would be interested in joining our efforts. The 40 friends and allies from community, business and government attended our first Social Hour on August 25, 2022, bolstered our confidence that this idea can gain traction to make the idea of interdependence a reality.