Why focus on the intersection of race and disability?

Disability is a common human experience, 20% of Americans have some type of disability.  Many disabilities are hidden (such as mental health, intellectual disabilities, autism, chronic illness, traumatic brain injury…).  And many people acquire disabilities at some point in their lives through accident, illness or aging.  Every organization and group includes people with disabilities.

Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term “Intersectionality” to describe the experience of living with multiple identities (gender, race, culture, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, etc).  We recognize that while there has been more conversation about some intersections (like race and gender) there have been other experiences that are often overlooked, even in conversations about equity (such as the experience of people of color who have disabilities).  There is a growing body of research illustrating specific disadvantages experienced by people of color with disabilities.  This video features local people of color sharing about their experiences with the disability community.


FISA Foundation, The Heinz Endowments and The Pittsburgh Foundation are partnering to strengthening our work at the intersection of race and disability, and to better address the needs of people of color with disabilities.

We hosted a series of webinars between March-June and the recordings and materials are posted below.  We’re currently in planning for Fall, 2021.

(recent event) Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline for Students of Color and Students with Disabilities

Description: In schools across the United States, Black students and other student of color are being harshly punished, arrested and issued citations at school for behavior that is not very different from white students. Students with disabilities are being excluded from the classroom through suspensions and expulsions and referred to the police for manifestations of their disabilities. And students of color who have disabilities experience compounded harms of racism and ableism in schools.

  • Students with disabilities are referred to juvenile justice at rates 5 times higher than students without disabilities.
  • Pennsylvania has the 2nd highest arrest rate in the country for Black students.
  • 45% of Black boys and 26% of Black girls that Pittsburgh Public School Police refer to juvenile justice have disabilities.

Most of the infractions that result in criminal charges are minor and do not threaten school safety: being “disruptive,” using “offensive” language, arguments where no one is injured. These patterns of over-policing further the myth that students of color engage in actions that are more dangerous than their white peers, which is unsupported by data. When police become involved in non-criminal disciplinary matters, the consequences for students, particularly students of color and those with disabilities can be profound and long-lasting.

Materials from the session:

View the recording:

(Recent event) Fostering Cultural Humility in Disability Services

Description: This workshop provided tools and strategies to increase multicultural awareness, knowledge, and the skills necessary to effectively work with and relate to ethnically and culturally diverse clients receiving disability services. Topics covered include intersectionality, disability justice and advocacy, implicit bias, cross-cultural communication, and microaggressions. Cultural Humility was introduced as a process to help build authentic cross-cultural relationships and will provide a culturally relevant strategic approach to reducing disparities. Presented by Dr. Channing Moreland, Director of the Wellness Pavilion at the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center in Homewood.

You can access the slides here: Fostering Cultural Humility Workshop 04 07 2021

View the recording:


(recent event) Inside-out work: Embedding racial equity in organizational culture

In recent years, many organizations have expressed a commitment to racial equity and justice and taken important first steps.  Truly integrating this commitment into the fabric of a nonprofit’s mission takes leadership, intentionality, and tangible, practical work. The journey requires authenticity, vulnerability, and a willingness to make mistakes, learn and do better. Please join us for this conversation between Michelle McMurray, Vice President of Program and Community Engagement at The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Tricia Gadson, CEO of Macedonia FACE, about what it takes to embed equity into organizational culture.  Speakers will share progress that organizations have made in this area and note challenges associated with this work.

View the recording:

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