9 Best Charities for Disabled Adults (Complete 2022 List)

9 Best Charities for Disabled Adults (Complete 2022 List)

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Alycia O'Dell

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Worldwide, up to 190 million people over the age of 15 live with a disability, a number that is perpetually growing due to a rise in chronic health conditions and population aging. Many people living with a disability require outside support to complete everyday activities, which can often be difficult to obtain. Luckily, numerous charities are helping these vulnerable people find the support they need. So, we had to ask: What are the best charities to support adults with disabilities?

The best charities for disabled adults are Easterseals, the Special Olympics, and Friends of Disabled Adults and Children. Others, such as United Cerebral Palsy and The Arc provide services vital to improving the lives of adults with special needs.

Whether you want to advocate for the rights of the disabled, improve community accessibility, or provide services that promote independent functioning, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities that support adults with disabilities are all about, how they work, and the best way to contribute.

Related: Did you know that you can make Amazon donate 0.5% of your purchases to a charitable organization of your choice. Sign up at smile.amazon.com, select the charity you want your donations to go to, and make Amazon donate a part of your purchases to your chosen charity at no extra cost to you.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Adults with Disabilities Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate primarily throughout the US and Canada, though some reach disabled adults internationally.

Many of these charities serve adults with a variety of disabilities, from physical to intellectual, while others focus on one specific disability. Some charities focus on advocacy, education, and awareness, while others provide more concrete services such as medical equipment, vocational training, and direct care. Yet,they all share a common goal; to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities.

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Disabled Adults

Below are our favorite charities for disabled adults:

  • Easterseals
  • Special Olympics
  • Friends of Disabled Adults and Children
  • United Cerebral Palsy
  • The Arc
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Goodwill Industries International
  • Autism Speaks
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

Easterseals: Lifespan Support for Individuals With Disabilities

Easterseals was founded in 1919 by Edgar Allen to overcome the lack of medical care available to people with disabilities. An issue that he personally experienced after his son was involved in a fatal streetcar accident. Today, Easterseals serves the needs of adults with disabilities through job training and various other support services.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives Easterseals a score 85 out of 100 for finance and accountability. Easterseals holds the GuideStar Silver seal of transparency. 

“All abilities. Limitless Possibilities.”

Easterseals

What they do: Easterseals provides essential services and on-the-ground support to individuals of all ages living with disabilities. Adult services include medical rehabilitation, vocational training and support, veteran services, and day programs. Easterseals also works to shape public perception of disability through education, policy, and advocacy initiatives.

What they’ve achieved: Each year, Easterseals helps more than 1.5 million people with disabilities. Since 2003, their annual fundraiser, Walk With Me, has generated nearly $41 million across 615 events and 230,000 participants. Easterseals was also a leading advocate for the Americans with Disabilities Act back in 1990, actively lobbying in Washington and throughout the US to get this act passed. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate to Easterseals via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in Walk With Me, or by volunteering with Easterseals near you.

Special Olympics: Empowerment Through Athleticism

The Special Olympics was founded as Camp Shriver by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1963 after her friend expressed frustration at the lack of recreational programs for her son with a disability.

Since the first Special Olympic Games in 1968, the charity has evolved into a global movement, highlighting ability over disability and empowering special athletes of all ages.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives the Special Olympics a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a silver rating for transparency. 

“Changing the world through sport”

Special Olympics

What they do: Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic events for children and adults with disabilities. Participation in the Special Olympics gives athletes opportunities to build confidence and develop relationships through physical fitness. In addition to national and international events, athletes can participate in regional activities in their local communities.

What they’ve achieved: Globally, the Special Olympics hosts more than 115,000 competitions annually, reaching more than 6.7 million athletes with disabilities and unified partners. Their Healthy Athletes initiative has performed more than 2 million screenings, addressing the physical needs of athletes that might otherwise go untreated. The initiative has also trained close to 300,000 health professionals and students to treat people with disabilities.

Ways to contribute: You can make monetary donations to The Special Olympics via their website. You can also get directly involved by volunteering as a coach, event staff, official or unified partner in your local community.

Friends of Disabled Adults and Children: Mobility for the Mobility-Impaired

Friends of Disabled Adults and Children was founded in 1986 by Ed and Annie Butchart to address the need for refurbished Home Medical Equipment for economically disadvantaged adults and children with disabilities. Today, FODAC utilizes a network of volunteers and partners to provide products and services that enhance the quality of life for the disabled.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives Friends of Disabled Adults and Children a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a gold rating for transparency. 

“We are dedicated to keep people moving!”

Friends of Disabled Adults and Children

What they do: Friends of Disabled Adults and Children recycle home medical equipment for people with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, scooters, and walkers and provide this refurbished equipment to those in need for little or no cost. They also provide refurbished computers to the disabled and help match people with contractors to make their homes and vehicles more accessible.

What they’ve achieved: Since its inception, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children has provided $250 million in medical equipment for people with disabilities internationally. They also keep 350 tons of recycled goods out of landfills annually through their recycling process. For example, they responded to COVID relief efforts by providing nearly $4 million in related medical equipment to hospitals in their home state of Georgia. They also expanded their reach globally, also donating to countries such as Venezuela, Kenya, Moldova, and Colombia. 

Ways to contribute: You can make monetary donations to Friends of Disabled Adults and Children via their website. You can also host an equipment drive, sponsor an event, or volunteer.

United Cerebral Palsy: Independence and Productivity for All

United Cerebral Palsy was founded in 1949 by Leonard and Isabelle Goldenson to improve the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities, and to provide their families with a network of support. Today, United Cerebral Palsy assists hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities to live as independently and productively as possible. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives United Cerebral Palsy a 100% rating for Finance and Accountability. GuideStar gives the charity a gold rating for transparency. 

“Life without limits for people with disabilities.”

United Cerebral Palsy

What they do: United Cerebral Palsy utilizes their network of affiliates throughout the US to provide services and support to people with disabilities in their own communities. These services include employment, health and wellness, and housing. The charity also promotes inclusivity through public advocacy and disability etiquette education

What they’ve achieved: United Cerebral Palsy advances research, public policy advocacy, and direct services for people with disabilities with their $750 million annual budget. The charity’s network includes 58 local affiliates throughout the US and Canada, helping about 155,000 people with disabilities annually. For example, in 2020, their Bellow’s Fund provided $654,988 to individuals with disabilities to aid in procuring assistive technology equipment.

Ways to contribute: You can make a donation to United Cerebral Palsy on a national or regional affiliate level. You can also volunteer with your local affiliate of the United Cerebral Palsy’s network.

The Arc: Respect, Dignity, and Inclusion

The Arc was founded in 1950 by a collective of parents who sought alternatives to institutionalization for their children with disabilities. Today, the charity remains dedicated to advocacy and inclusion for people with disabilities throughout their lifetimes.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives The Arc a 100% rating for finance and accountability. GuideStar gives the charity a gold rating for transparency. The Arc is also an accredited charity with the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance

“We fight every day so no person with a disability gets left behind.”

The Arc

What they do: As a disability rights organization, The Arc advocates for full inclusion for people with disabilities by working closely with policymakers at state and national levels. The charity also provides direct support to adults with disabilities through initiatives such as criminal justice, post-secondary education, employment, and future planning.

What they’ve achieved: The Arc’s most notable achievements have been based in advocacy and driving public policy. They were the first organization to put money into research on intellectual and developmental disabilities. They were also instrumental in enacting social support programs for people with disabilities such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Supplemental Security Income. For example, in 2021, The Arc’s advocacy efforts led to $12.7 billion in new federal funding for home and community-based services for people with disabilities. Today, The Arc has nearly 600 chapters across 47 US states plus the district of Columbia.

Ways to contribute: You can support The Arc by making a monetary donation, creating your own fundraiser, donating physical items, or giving stock. You can also participate in advocacy efforts by voicing your support to Congress.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Destigmatizing Mental Health

The National Alliance on Mental Illness was founded in 1979 by a small group of families to provide solidarity and support to people suffering from mental illness. Today, the organization works to raise awareness and provide support to those in need in communities across the US.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives the National Alliance on Mental Illness a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a Platinum rating for transparency. 

“Changing the mental health conversation, together.”

National Alliance on Mental Illness

What they do: The National Alliance on Mental Illness improves the lives of those with mental illness and their families through advocacy, education, support, and public awareness. Their education program features classes for people with mental illness as well as stakeholders such as family members, significant others, and providers. They also provide peer support to those seeking guidance and resources via their 24-hour HelpLine.

What they’ve achieved: The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a grassroots mental health organization that helps those affected through a network of over 600 affiliates and 49 state organizations across the US. For example, in 2021, they distributed $3.5 million in grants to advance the work of their network. In the same year, their annual fundraiser, NAMIWalks Your Way, raised $13.1 million across 122 events with over 40,000 participants nationwide. The charity was also cited by federal legislators more often than any other mental health organization in 2021.

Ways to contribute: You can donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in NamiWalks Your Way, or by volunteering to work on the HelpLine.

Goodwill Industries International: Work Skills for Brighter Futures

Goodwill Industries International was founded in 1902 by Reverend Edgar Helms as part of his ministry in Boston, collecting discarded items and hiring impoverished men to repair and redistribute them to people in need. Today, the charity is a leading provider of educational and workforce-related services.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives Goodwill Industries International a 100% rating for finance and accountability. GuideStar gives the charity a platinum rating for transparency.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to build brighter futures for themselves”

Goodwill Industries International

What they do: Goodwill Industries International helps people overcome barriers to employment, such as disability, to improve their lives and career prospects. They do this by providing services like vocational training and job placement, and help people maintain employment through services such as transportation, child care, and continuing education.

What they’ve achieved: Every day, Goodwill Industries International helps more than 300 people – many of those with disabilities – find new employment. For example, in 2020, 1,174,657 people utilized Goodwill’s services to advance their careers, including 157,416 people with disabilities. In 2017, the charity partnered with Google.org to create the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, helping more than half a million people, including many with disabilities, earn digital skills certifications and credentials. 

Ways to contribute: You can make monetary donations to Goodwill Industries International directly via their website. You can also donate new and gently used items to a Goodwill near you, or volunteer to provide job training and other services.

Autism Speaks: A Spectrum of Solutions

Autism Speaks was founded in 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, a year after their grandchild was diagnosed with autism, to explore causes of the disorder and find the best possible treatments. Today, they are the largest autism research organization in the US.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives Autism Speaks a 3-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a platinum rating for transparency. 

“Across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan”

Autism Speaks

What they do: Autism Speaks enhances the lives of individuals with autism through advocacy campaigns, funding research, and providing direct support. Their research efforts identify the underlying causes of autism to develop improved interventions. They also ease the transition to adulthood for individuals with autism by promoting workplace inclusion and providing vocational support.

What they’ve achieved: To date, Autism Speaks has successfully advocated for autism insurance benefits covering 207 million people across the US. They have aided over 24.1 million people through funded services and awarded nearly $15.2 million in local grants and scholarships. Since 2007, they have also successfully championed a $3.9 billion increase in federal research funding for autism.

Ways to contribute: You can make monetary donations to Autism Speaks via their website. You can also contribute by registering to participate in the Autism Speaks Walk, or by creating your own fundraiser.

National Center for Learning Disabilities: Research, Advocacy, Action 

The National Center for Learning Disabilities was founded in 1977 by Carrie and Pete Rozelle to support research and innovative practices in learning disabilities. Today, they improve the lives of people with learning disabilities through empowerment, advocacy, and action.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Charity Navigator gives the National Center for Learning Disabilities a 4-star rating. GuideStar gives the charity a gold rating for transparency. 

“Improving the lives of the 1 in 5”

National Center for Learning Disabilities

What they do: The National Center for Learning Disabilities enhances the lives of individuals with learning disabilities through advocacy campaigns, funding research, and by providing scholarships and awards. They also help young adults transition to life after high school by providing an online community of support and resources to connect them to educational and vocational services.

What they’ve achieved: The National Center for Learning Disabilities developed the LD Checklist to help with early recognition of learning disabilities. They also created a bank of online resources to help students navigate online learning. This was based on a survey they conducted of young adults with learning disabilities to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on their learning. In 2020, they spent $1,890,064 on efforts to advance their mission, including $417,388 toward young adult initiatives.

Ways to contribute: You can make monetary donations to the National Center for Learning Disabilities directly via their website. You can also become an advocate by sending a letter to Congress and educating yourself on the issues important to the learning disability community.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for disabled adults. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing a charity’s progress in reaching its targets, the chances are they’re not making a substantial positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their Amazon Smile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to disabled adults – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,

Illustration of a signature for Alycia

PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

Sources

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Alycia O'Dell

Alycia loves to research and write about organizations that invest in the health and welfare of marginalized communities. She holds a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis and works with children with autism. Outside of work, she is a new mom to twins and loves helping them learn and explore.

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