Nexus Project focuses on racial bias and equity in disability employment

“What do we mean when we say disability economic justice?” asks Kate Caldwell ’14 PhD DHD.

Caldwell, DHD clinical assistant professor, is principal investigator on a $300,000 Ford Foundation grant for the Nexus Project, which will produce research that defines this issue and informs public policy.

The project focuses on racial bias and equity in disability employment.

“It’s an area that’s been severely under-researched,” Caldwell said.

One goal is to encourage research by scholars who are disabled and disabled people of color.

“We want to help create a pathway for them to do this work, then give them a foundation from which to advance this work,” she said.

Others involved with the project include co-PIs Rooshey Hasnain, DHD clinical assistant professor; Brenda Parker, associate dean in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs; and research director Sumithra Murthy.

The Nexus Project is a member of the new Disability Economic Justice Collective, an initiative of more than 20 disability rights organizations, research groups and Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, funded by the Century Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

“The Disability Economic Justice Collective will be more policy focused,” Caldwell said. “They’ll take the research that we’re doing and put it into action.”

The first step for the Nexus Project is to complete a literature review that gathers past scholarship on disability and economic justice. Next, they’ll conduct interviews with disabled people of color across the country to document experiences with racial bias, employment and economic disparity.

The project will also set up a panel of experts—primarily disabled people of color—as a resource for policy makers and federal agencies.

The idea is to offer many different opportunities for engagement and collaboration, Caldwell said.

“Anybody who is working on race and disability employment will be welcome to join us.”