THE MISSION OF WASHINGTON ACCESS FUND IS TO HELP PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES IN WASHINGTON STATE ACHIEVE FINANCIAL CAPABILITY AND STABILITY BY IMPROVING ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITIES, LEVERAGING COMMUNITY RESOURCES, PROMOTING ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY AND BRIDGING FUNDING GAPS THROUGH LOW-INTEREST LOANS, MATCHED SAVINGS, AND OTHER MEANS.
I am very pleased to share the results of our efforts for fiscal year 2014. The Washington Access Fund’s commitment to improving financing opportunities for people with disabilities who need assistive technology and business equipment is at the core of our work. During 2014 we made it easier for people to get the modified vehicles or home modifications they need by increasing our loan amounts to $25,000. We made more loans for assistive technology and business equipment in 2014 than we made in any prior year – a total of 112.
People with disabilities experience poverty at twice the rate of those without disabilities and are twice as likely to be unemployed. Because nearly 90% of our clients are low-income, we are confident that in 2014 we are reaching those that need our services the most. In 2014 the number of clients served through our matched-savings Individual Development Account (IDA) program, which is only available to low-income people with disabilities, grew from 57 to 112.
While 2014 was a year of progress in many ways for us, we also felt a deep loss as our long-time friend and the Chair of our board, Ron Adams, unexpectedly passed away. We honored Ron and his commitment to those we serve by naming our Outstanding Client Award after him.
I write this following the completion of my first year as Executive Director. My predecessor, Frances Pennell, has been the heart and soul of the organization since its founding. She was most gracious throughout the transition process and has continued to serve as a volunteer. We are all so thankful to her for her years of dedication and the standard of service she set for the organization.
The Washington Access Fund has been fortunate in having a fantastically devoted and efficient staff as those of you who have had the opportunity to work with them know. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for the vital contributions they make. I’d also like to thank our Board of Directors whose expertise and reliability have kept the organization on a positive path.
We all appreciate your support and partnership as we help people with disabilities help themselves.
Now our loans can help more than ever before with larger assistive technology purchases like modified vehicles and home modifications. This long sought policy change was made possible by grants applied for and received in FY13 from the US Department of Education and the US Department of Treasury CDFI Fund.
The Disability Employment Initiative (DEI) was a new matched savings program launched as a test project in King & Snohomish Counties. Funded by a grant from the Dept. of Labor, the savings and match were used to purchase equipment for employment related goals. In FY14, 33 low income DEI job seekers saved $50,360.
We celebrated 10 years of providing access to economic opportunity and technology for people with disabilities by inviting journalist, John Hockenberry, to speak at Town Hall and launching a new Awards Program honoring businesses, organizations and individuals who make a difference in the disability community in WA.