Burton Blatt Institute receives major grant to aid people with disabilities

October 27, 2016

Daily Orange by Lilia Wood

The center hosted an ADA and Financial Inclusion Training on September 23.

Syracuse University's Burton Blatt Institute has received a $6.23 million grant to support the Southeast Americans with Disabilities Act Center. The center hosted an ADA and Financial Inclusion Training on September 23.

The grant will be used to educate people and disseminate information regarding the rights of those with disabilities, BBI Chair Peter Blanck said.

The grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services; the Administration on Community Living; and the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research will be used to teach a growing population about the rights available to people with disabilities.

The goal of the BBI is to make the ADA more accessible to those who are in need of assistance, said Pamela Williamson, project director of the Southeast ADA Center.

To assist the Southeast ADA Center, the BBI distributes information to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The center covers the largest number of states and the third largest population compared to the other nine ADA regions.

The grant will also be used to support the group’s outreach and training efforts, particularly in the southeastern United States, Blanck said.

Diana Foote, director of operations and business manager at the BBI, said the grant is the third of its kind, each given for a five-year duration. It will take the institute through 15 years of funding.

Unlike previous grants received, Williamson said this one includes funding for research on the accessibility of financial services. The BBI will focus on physical access into buildings, online access on websites or mobile apps and other ways the researchers innovate.

“We are going to be looking at how financial accessibility impacts community inclusion and participation,” Williamson said. “The ability of an individual with disabilities to be able to access financial institutions and be able to get to their money and then be able to turn around and send it into the community.”

The grant will also have a research component. The BBI will examine how financial institutions and businesses can help individuals with disabilities achieve financial independence, Williamson said.

Foote said any group or organization that qualifies under the Department of Health and Human Services has the opportunity to request grant proposals from the Southeast ADA Center — making the grant process very competitive.

The BBI completed its application last spring and was selected for the next peer review round in which NIDILRR selects a group of people to review and score the application, she said. The finalists from the peer review round then receive a site visit.

Foote said she is proud of such large grants, but added that small contributions are also effective. The team, comprised of an integrated staff that includes students with disabilities, uses this grant money to finance its goals.

The institute was established to perpetuate the legacy of its namesake, Burton Blatt, who devoted his life to championing rights for people with disabilities.

Many SU College of Law students work on the BBI team to write legal briefs for recent court cases, Williamson said. The decisions made in the court can affect all the laws applied state to state and the BBI needs to stay informed with legal updates focusing specifically on disabilities.

“We get to work with the students in order to help them put things into ‘real people language’ and to help people truly understand what is happening,” Williamson said.


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