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May & Stanley Smith Charitable Trust

Adults and Transitioning Youth with Disabilities

Adults with DisabilitiesWith its grantmaking in the Adults and Transitioning Youth with Disabilities program area, the Trust aims to strengthen supportive services for adults and youth transitioning to adulthood with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities in order to: maximize their ability to live independently and promote inclusion in their communities.

In addition, the Trust will make grants to programs that support caregivers, including assistance with care transition planning by parents of adult children with disabilities, and a limited number of strong programs that provide respite opportunities combined with education.



The Trust’s grantmaking responds to data and research from the 2010 Kessler Foundation/NOD Survey indicating inequalities for persons with disabilities in areas including:

  • Independent Living Support/Housing: More than 75% of families report they cannot find suitable non-institutional community services, trained and reliable home care providers, supported residential arrangements, respite care, and other services.
  • Employment: Nearly 85% of families report that adult family members with disabilities who want to work are unemployed, either part-time or full-time.
  • Community: People with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to socialize with friends, relatives, or neighbors, indicating ongoing and significant barriers to their participation in leisure activities and community life. Stigma and discrimination also hinder their full acceptance in society.

The focus population for this program area includes adults and youth transitioning to adulthood who have either an intellectual or developmental disability (I/DD) or a physical disability – including mobility, visual, or hearing impairments. The Trust’s grantmaking will also focus on programs providing respite support for caregivers of individuals living with I/DD or physical disabilities of all ages, as well as support for aging caregivers to engage in transition planning for the care of their adult children.

A small number of Trust grants may advance the work of national organizations that are vetting, documenting, and/or sharing research-based best practices.

Goals & Strategy

The Trust’s grantmaking addresses four broad goals, which collectively enable adults and transitioning youth with I/DD or physical disabilities to build self-confidence, self-determination, and skills needed to increase their daily well-being and live a life of their own choosing in the community:

GOAL 1: Empower adults and youth transitioning to adulthood to bridge successfully into active lives in the community.

Strategies include:

  • Provide supportive services and training to maximize an individual’s ability to live interdependently in the community
  • Invest in interventions enabling individuals to live safely in the least restrictive residential setting and make their own informed decisions

Examples of types of activities to be supported:

  • Independent living skills training and support built around a family plan that addresses individual strengths, preferences, and needs
  • Access to affordable housing, transportation, and other basic necessities

GOAL 2: Enable adults and youth transitioning to adulthood who seek work and economic stability to experience opportunities for employment and career growth – meeting the needs of both the individuals with disabilities and their employers.

Strategies include:

  • Promote integrated, competitive employment for all as an achievable, expected outcome, not the exception
  • Address the needs of both individuals with disabilities and prospective employers
  • Support employers to improve their capacity to hire, retain, and promote employees with disabilities

Examples of types of activities to be supported:

  • Opportunities for transitioning youth to participate in paid work while in high school, a documented predictor of paid work as an adult
  • Alignment of employer needs with individual preferences and capabilities; customized employment strategies; supported employment services including placement assistance, job coaching, social skills training, on-the-job retention supports, mentors, and employer education

GOAL 3: Promote inclusive participation of adults and youth transitioning to adulthood in recreational programs, the arts, social events, and civic activities with acceptance and support of an informed and embracing community that recognizes every individual’s abilities and contributions.

Strategies include:

  • Enhance overall quality of life, sense of purpose, and self-satisfaction through social support networks and community activities
  • Reduce social stigmatization through community training and supports to enable full participation by all in community activities

Examples of types of activities to be supported:

  • Opportunities to participate in inclusive art and music enrichment programs, education, community service projects, and volunteer activities, with appropriate supports
  • Access to inclusive outdoor education/recreation programs such as camping, nature hikes, individual sports, team sports and fitness programs serving people of all abilities
  • Access to adaptive technology and the internet to increase connections to the community

GOAL 4: Support aging caregivers in developing comprehensive plans for eventual transition of caregiving and financial/benefits responsibilities. Also support family caregivers so that they can continue in their caregiving role without being overburdened emotionally, physically, and financially. 

Strategies include investing in:

  • Programs that provide education and assistance, including public awareness, legal services, and financial planning advice, for caregivers and family members to develop comprehensive future caregiving plans for eventual transition of caregiving responsibilities for their adult children.
  • A limited number of strong programs that provide respite opportunities for families/caregivers while incorporating formal caregiver support activities such as training, counseling, and information

Examples of types of activities to be supported:

  • Education and assistance with transition planning for aging caregivers, such as legal and financial planning advice, involving all family members including siblings
  • Interventions that deliver assistance with caregiving tasks; offer caregiver counseling, information, and other supports; and provide respite

Competitive Characteristics

Successful applicant organizations:

  • Specifically address one or more of the goals on the Goals & Strategies tab
  • Incorporate a person-centered planning and service delivery approach, supporting each person to reach their full potential
  • Actively involve individuals with disabilities in decision-making about the focus and evaluation of the effectiveness of service delivery
  • Provide supports that result in community or employer focus on the abilities, rather than disabilities, of individuals
  • Demonstrate success in helping individuals with disabilities to set and achieve realistic personal goals
  • Are recognized in the community for demonstrated efficacy in providing independent living, employment, community engagement, or caregiver support services for individuals with disabilities and their families
  • Coordinate with other community organizations providing services to people with disabilities
  • Collaborate with and share knowledge on best practices with other nonprofits and government agencies serving people with disabilities

Competitive applicants must also meet the criteria outlined in the Alignment and Eligibility sections of the website.

The Trust does not consider requests from the following:

  • Organizations or programs that do not primarily serve adults and youth transitioning to adulthood with I/DD or physical disabilities
  • Funding requests to provide services and support for individuals with mental illness or critical illness – defined by the Trust as either a short-term or life threatening/terminal condition – will not be considered
  • Organizations lacking a track record of achieving results toward at least one of the Trust’s four goals
  • Organizations primarily conducting advocacy activities

Recent Grants

Grantee Profile

The Arc of the United States (The Arc)

Established in 1950, The Arc works on behalf of people with I/DD, actively supporting their full inclusion and community participation throughout their lifetimes. The Arc partners with over 700 local and state chapters to develop and deliver programs that enable people with disabilities to live, work, and enjoy life in the community. The Trust’s 2011 two-year grant ($400,000) supports The Arc’s School to Community Transition Project (SCTP) which aims to improve the quality of transition planning and services for youth and young adults by identifying, funding, and documenting successful programs that can be replicated across The Arc’s network of local and state chapters and beyond. SCTP’s targeted outcomes include employment, post-secondary education opportunities, stable housing, and independent community living.
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Grantee Profile

Wilderness Inquiry (WI)

WI was founded in 1978 on the belief that shared outdoor experiences have the power to transform individuals and communities. Through outdoor training, and activities, individuals with disabilities learn and practice social interaction, independent living, and other skills needed to more successfully integrate into the community and increase their overall quality of life. The Trust’s 2013 two-year grant of $70,000 supports WI’s Share the Adventure Program, which involves 750 individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities alongside 2,250 individuals without disabilities, fostering an environment where individuals develop and model respect for every person regardless of experience, ability, or background. Program offerings range from canoeing in Yellowstone, to kayaking in the Apostle Islands, hiking in Olympic National Park, and horsepacking in Colorado.
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