Dr. I. King Jordan, Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson Scholarship Foundation

Uploaded by CouncilOnFoundations on 02.12.2009

Dr. Jordan: I am very lucky to be a trustee of the Johnson Scholarship Foundation
because everything they do has to do with diversity.
The board, before I was a member of the board,
the board decided to divide their grantmaking into three categories.
One category, people with disabilities;
one category, American Indians or Native Americans;
and the third category, disadvantaged children.
Now, that third category disadvantaged children
almost always includes a great many people from underrepresented groups,
especially people of color.
So everything that's done by the Johnson Scholarship Foundation
is done with an eye toward inclusion and diversity
and helping people who sometimes have been ignored.

The category of people with disabilities is without any doubt,
the largest single minority category in the United States
and probably in the world.
But, interestingly there are many different kinds of people with disabilities
and all of the other differences, all the other minority groups
interweave into the disability thing.
There are people who are disabled who are gay;
there are people who are disabled who are black,
there are women who are disabled.
All of the different minority groups also are included in the disability group -
so the idea of different boards, different foundations,
different philosophies, if you will,
working together is really a good idea.
So people whose focus is diversity and people whose focus is aging -
there should be a lot of collaboration there.
I talk sometimes about people who are deaf who become old
and people who are old and become deaf,
and they're two very different populations.
People who are deaf and become old have to adjust to aging;
people who are old and become deaf have to adjust to aging and adjust to becoming deaf,
and the really different life experiences.
So it would be good for grantmakers whose focus is aging to know more about disability
and it would be good for people whose grantmaking is disability
to realize that that group will grow with aging.

I am a deaf man. I can't hear, I can speak;
but when I travel and when I speak,
then people in the audience frequently look to me as someone who represents deaf people,
as someone who can speak for all deaf people.
I can't. Of course, I can't.
I try very hard when I meet with groups to explain that I am deaf
but there are many different ways to be deaf in the world.
There are many different ways deaf people communicate.
There are many different levels of hearing loss.
Some people who are deaf can hear a radio, can use the telephone.
Some people who are deaf like me
can't hear anything, even my own speech.
I am not an expert on deafness. I'm not.
I'm an expert on being a deaf person.
I have been deaf for a long, long time
so I know what life is like as a deaf person
but I'm not an expert on deafness
and I'm certainly not an expert on disability.
Foundations, foundation boards, foundation staff
should never be satisfied that if they have a woman on their board
then they have adequate representation or knowledge about women's issues.
They should never be satisfied that if they have
one disabled person on their board
then they've satisfied some notion that they have the disability perspective there.
They should always be looking to learn more
and to reach out to other people who would bring different perspectives
about gender, or race or disability.

I really like the phrase conversation changer.
I was at a National Fair Housing Alliance conference
and I was on a panel talking about diversity issues,
and people in the room had never thought that
it would be a good idea for PSAs to be done in sign language.
People in the room had never thought that deaf people
may not understand sophisticated English language in documents needed for housing transactions.
People in the room, many of them didn't realize how important captions are.
When I spoke on the panel, it was really clear
that they learned something that they didn't expect to learn.

Well the advice that I give to other -
directors, trustees, board members of foundations -
I would encourage them to pay attention to people with disabilities
and welcome them into the staff, onto the board.
My advice would be reach out to people with disabilities
or if people with disabilities come to apply for a job
or make known that they are interested in your foundation -
welcome them.