Our Values In Action
Easterseals: Supporting Independence Through Assistive Technology
Technology can unlock a world of opportunities for individuals with disabilities — opportunities that also foster independence. But many people with disabilities lack basic access to the tech tools that could radically improve their lives.
Since 2011, Comcast NBCUniversal has helped nearly 57,000 Americans with disabilities through our Fred J. Maahs, Jr., Assistive Technology Grant Fund to Easterseals, a nonprofit organization committed to expanding possibilities for children and adults with disabilities. The fund, named after the former Comcast executive who helped build the partnership and serves on the Easterseals National Board of Directors, supports a variety of technology programs and services, from braille-equipped handheld computers to augmentative communication devices.
At Easterseals Colorado, clients like 19-year-old Joe are able to learn a variety of technology-related skills in the Comcast Employment & Technology Center that help with critical independent living activities, such as managing budgets and shopping online for groceries.
In 2019, Easterseals is celebrating 100 years of being a voice for individuals and families living with disabilities. And looking ahead to the next 100 years, the organization hopes to ensure that everyone, regardless of age or ability, is 100% included and 100% empowered. There is no doubt that technology will be a critical part of making that possible.
“We want everyone to be empowered to learn, to work, to be part of everyday life,” says Angela F. Williams, Easterseals’ President and Chief Executive Officer. “We want to advance people with all abilities as we continue to break down barriers to equal opportunities.”
Easterseals works directly with legislators in Washington to ensure that the rights and resources so vital for people with disabilities are protected and expanded. Such advocacy efforts date back to the 1920s, when the organization’s founder, Edgar Allen, lobbied the Ohio Legislature to fund critical programs for children with disabilities. Easterseals is also an administer of federal services, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is the largest federally funded program for older adults who seek employment and training assistance, and the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, which aims to increase access to transportation for older adults, people with disabilities, and caregivers.
The Easterseals Disability Film Challenge is another way the nonprofit aims to break down barriers, giving filmmakers — with and without disabilities — a chance to tell unique stories that showcase disability in its many forms. The film competition gives participants 55 hours to write, shoot, and edit a three-to-five minute short film. While the filmmakers are not required to include disability in the storyline, each team must include at least one person with a disability in front of or behind the camera. For the 2019 awards, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group awarded a $2,000 grant to each of the winners of the four award categories and donated an additional $2,000 to Easterseals.
Comcast NBCUniversal’s work with Easterseals is centered on deep engagement that goes much further than funding. Our employees actively serve on the organization’s national and regional boards and participate in large-scale volunteer events through Comcast Cares Day.
Our partnership extends to the airing of public service announcements (PSAs) on the nonprofit’s behalf — marketing that the organization couldn’t afford otherwise. Says Williams, “With Comcast NBCUniversal’s support, we can direct our budget to the people who are in need of our services rather than spend it on advertising.”