Making your grants program accessible to individuals with a disability

If you want to target the disadvantaged and the marginalised in your grantmaking, recognise that there may be extra costs associated with this, and adjust your grants accordingly. Be considerate in the design of your application forms, and be aware that a project that might sound boring to you could be life-changing for a person with a disability.

The application process - what can you do?

  • Don't wait for smaller organisations to come to you - go out and find the groups you need to deliver your funding objectives.
  • Ensure that online application forms are not too large (in length or file size) to be downloaded and circulated.
  • Consider using SmartyGrants, which complies with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
  • If you provide application forms in PDF format, ensure you provide them as Word documents as well. PDFs are inaccessible to some people with a disability.
  • Make sure all your documents are produced in such a way that the text can be expanded to display in a larger font. For example, avoid using text boxes unless they can be expanded.
  • Do not ask repetitive questions. Be concise.
  • Keep requests for attachments and supporting documents to a minimum.
  • Avoid using jargon in forms and guidelines.

Funding levels and expectations - how to be realistic

  • Think twice about only funding projects that have support from a range of sources. You may sideline smaller organisations - with limited resources for building relationships and writing multiple submissions - in favour of wealthier organisations.
  • Resist the temptation to provide a partial grant or to make unrealistic requests for an organisation to contribute its own funds to a project.
  • When setting funding limits, consider having disability support funds that sit outside the grants budget that can cover expenses such as the provision of sign interpreters or hearing loops, or converting documents into accessible formats, or providing carers. At least take these additional costs into consideration.

Funding levels and expectations - how to be realistic

  • Systemic change is a worthy goal, but systemic doesn't necessarily mean bigger than Ben Hur. Projects that could dramatically improve the lives of people with a disability may seem downright dull to the uninitiated.
  • Most people with a disability, for example, are living on income support, are older, and are more interested in living independently in their local neighbourhoods than they are in adopting the latest technology.
  • A comprehensive audit of the accessibility of buildings in a major city may sound boring to you, but for a person with a disability it can be life-changing.