First Certified CDFI in the country to be run by and for people with disabilities!
Northwest Access Fund was incorporated in 1999 and received its nonprofit 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in 2001. It was certified by the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in 2002—the first in the country to be run by and for people with disabilities. The bulk of our initial funding came in 2004 from the U.S. Department of Education via its Alternative Financing (AFP) and Access to Telework Programs. With these grants, together with match contributed by individual and Foundation donors (including the Paul G. Allen Family and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations), we were able to hire our first full-time staff and launch our assistive technology and business equipment loan programs in earnest. We also received early support from the Washington Council of the Blind (our first grant of $25,000 in 2001!) and the Washington Department of Services for the Blind which, in 2003, provided funding to create the Closed Circuit TV Magnifier (CCTV) rental program.
In 2008, we established a matched-savings Individual Development Account (IDA) pilot project through a collaboration with United Way of King County (using state SEED Act dollars). In 2010, we were able to expand this program thanks to a generous grant from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, and enrolled participants in the program until 2019.
Celebrating 15 years of serving our community
Click here for a text-only version of our timeline.
Our evolving Name…
For our first 8 years, we were known as the Washington Assistive Technology Foundation (WATF).
By 2010, we had outgrown the name. After years of engaging with clients whose lives were profoundly impacted by the technologies financed, we understood that our mission is really to provide access —not only to technology, but also to economic opportunity. We became the Washington Access Fund to reflect this broader mission.
Next, we broadened the geographic reach of our services, expanding into Oregon State in 2016. We are now Northwest Access Fund.
Today, we provide a range of financial services designed to meet the unique needs of people with disabilities. This includes our longstanding Assistive Technology Loan Program as well as one-on-one financial coaching, benefits planning, and robust information and referrals regarding appropriate assistive technology resources across both Washington and Oregon.