National Disability Institute (NDI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building a better economic future for people with disabilities.

NDI is the first national organization committed exclusively to championing economic empowerment, financial education, asset development and financial stability for all persons with disabilities. NDI affects change through public education, policy development, training, technical assistance and innovative initiatives. Visit nationaldisabilityinstitute.org.


Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP)

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) funded National Disability Institute to implement a Community Navigator Pilot Program (CNPP). An exciting, new group of over 25 government agencies, financial institutions, community nonprofit organizations and SBA-funded resource centers have made a commitment to work together to provide resources and improve responsive, customer-sensitive services for entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities.

CNPP Goals:

  • Support entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities at any point of the business life cycle: Concept, Start-up, Reopen, Sustain, Grow.
  • Reduce barriers that underrepresented and underserved entrepreneurs often face in accessing the programs they need to Start, Build or Grow their businesses.
  • Improve the ecosystem of coordinated, comprehensive small business development services and supports that are responsive and accessible to the needs of entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities.
  • The ecosystem includes: financial assistance, access to capital, contracting and procurement assistance, marketing and communications, operations, legal assistance and management and business development.

Partner Organizations

2-Gether-International (2GI) provides services and supports to over 250 individuals with disabilities in greater DC area. With funding from private foundations, DC Deputy Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, the DC Office of Small and Local Business Development and Google for Startups, it offers online courses, peer support, career coaching and one-on-one mentoring. Over 50 percent of individuals receiving services are individuals with disabilities who are Black or Latinx. Over 90 percent are individuals with disabilities of low- or moderate-income. Role and responsibilities include training, TA, peer support and mentorship.

Disability:IN has pioneered a rigorous and highly credible two-year international certification for disability-owned business enterprises (DOBE). Recognized and trusted by Fortune 500 corporations and leading organizations including the Billion Dollar Roundtable, the certification provides eligible businesses access to business development and mentoring programs, along with a network of business leaders – all designed to ensure that DOBEs continue to grow and thrive. To be eligible for certification, a for-profit business must be at least 51 percent owned, operated, managed and controlled by a person(s) with a disability. Roles and responsibilities will be to identify businesses for DOBE certification and provide them with access to competitive procurement bidding opportunities.

Results One LLC is a woman- and Black-owned small business in Washington, D.C. with over 10 years’ experience delivering digital accessibility testing and training by certified experts to address software, systems, website and online materials accessibility and usability to conform with federal standards. Results One will improve the accessibility and usability of organizations’ and agencies’ digital content that are part of the proposed Community Navigator expanded 16 ecosystem. Role and responsibilities include using certified accessibility specialists to make trainings and TA materials accessible, and testing of collaborating organizations’ websites to recommend and offer technical assistance to ensure accessibility and usability of digital content for people with disabilities.

Griffin-Hammis Associates (GHA) has 30 years of experience providing training and technical assistance (TA) to support individuals across the spectrum of disabilities to become self-employed and small business owners. In 2020, GHA was awarded a five-year innovative training grant from the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration to improve the capacity of state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies in supporting individuals with disabilities to open and sustain small businesses. Role and responsibilities include TA with DC, VA and MD VR agencies to support entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities. Online training courses will be provided for spokes, collaborators and individuals with disabilities on all facets of small business start-up and management and navigating complex Social Security rules to optimize benefits of self-employment

League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the largest and oldest Hispanic organization in the United States. It coordinates with community-based organizations in the design and implementation of Small Business Development Academies that target Latino women of low- and moderate-income to support small business development and growth. Role and responsibilities include working to design and implement a LULAC small business development and entrepreneurship academy for LMI Latino women with disabilities. The 14-hour training program will be available in Spanish and include ongoing support with mentors.

Life Asset provides microloans and training to support entrepreneurs and small business owners. It uses social collateral rather than traditional loan underwriting criteria to secure loans. Founded in 2011, the client base is 100 percent low-income with over 90 percent being individuals who are Black or Latinx. Twelve percent are also individuals with disabilities. The small businesses supported have typically been rejected for a loan by traditional lenders. Ninety-six percent of supported small businesses are still in operation one year after paying off their loan. Role and responsibilities include lending and financial assistance to the proposed target audience. Additional support will be online training and coaching as well as peer-to-peer networking.

The Disability Opportunity Fund (DOF) was launched in 2007 as a community development financial institution. Based in New York, DOF is the only certified CDFI by U.S. Treasury focused 17 exclusively on lending to benefit the disability community nationwide. Role and responsibilities include competitive market rate financing for entrepreneurs and small business owners with disabilities served by the pilot. Five years ago, DOF established the Disability CDFI Coalition which includes over 40 other CDFIs. DOF will use its own and other CDFI’s interests in disability support as potential additional lenders and will offer TA to DC-based CDFIs on nontraditional approaches to assess credit worthiness and credit risk for small business owners with disabilities.

Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (GIEI) was established at Gallaudet University to support Deaf students and alumni to start and grow small businesses. Role and responsibilities will be to invite this target group to participate in a training academy that offers faculty and entrepreneurs a Deaf-friendly and responsive environment to build the next cadre of small businesses owned by Deaf individuals to the greater DC area. Although the proposed model will have, as an objective, to improve accessibility for Deaf and hearing-impaired individuals at all relevant centers and agencies that offer small business development services, the leadership at Gallaudet provides the expert perspective on the need and merits of a Deaf-led separate program as a “best approach” to the Deaf community.

Alpha Phi Alpha (APA) is the oldest and largest Black fraternity on college campuses. The DC chapter involves Black brothers who are graduates of Howard University and other Historically Black colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the mid-Atlantic region with a membership base of over 300 alumni. Roles and responsibilities include creation of a mentorship program and expert pro bono counseling to help entrepreneurs and small business owners who are Black and disabled with financial, accounting and marketing assistance, including filing applications for SBA and other federal benefit programs.

Service Source is a nonprofit organization with a mission to facilitate services, resources and partnerships to support people with disabilities and others we serve, along with their families, their caregivers and community members, in order to build more inclusive communities. The ServiceSource organization is made up of five regional offices with programs and operations throughout the country. For more than 50 years, ServiceSource has provided employment services to the people they serve including entrepreneurs with disabilities. In 2015, ServiceSource started the Bloom program to address the need for flexible self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Bloom also addresses the barriers people with disabilities may face when launching their own businesses. Through this program, Bloom provides people served with a platform to sell handmade goods and also provides support in idea generation, skill building, technical and financial assistance and help creating sales channels, in retail and online. In total, the Bloom program has served more than 200 individuals. ServiceSource will offer expanded training virtually and in-person in addition to peer support, mentor relationships and increased community resource coordination.

Boston Media LLC – Disability Owned delivers TV programming for and about business owners with disabilities located in the greater Washington, D.C. area. Disability Owned, a free streaming TV channel, is available to watch on TV (via Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV app), mobile devices (via iOS and Android) and computers. The channel features content from National Disability Institute, CNPP Spokes, collaborating organizations and government agencies that help entrepreneurs with disabilities start, sustain and grow a business enterprise in the greater Washington, D.C. area.  Disability Owned TV was developed by Boston Media, LLC, an African American-owned financial information, healthcare marketing and streaming services company located in Baltimore, MD. The company delivers financial wellness TV programs (Moneywise with Kelvin Boston) and health care products (Prevention Circul + Ring) to multicultural, working class and underserved communities.  The company also develops digital streaming TV services (Disability Owned) for content creators, nonprofit organizations and broadcast enterprises.

Other Collaborating Organizations

District of Columbia

  • DC Bar Pro Bono Center
  • DC Disability Services Administration/Rehabilitation Services Administration
  • DC Office of Disability Rights
  • DC Women’s Business Center
  • Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development
  • Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development
  • Howard Small Business Development Center

Maryland

  • Maryland Small Business Development Center
  • Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation
  • Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development
  • Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation
  • Office of Innovation and Economic Development, Division of Research University of Maryland
  • The Arc Prince George’s County

Virginia

  • Virginia Career Works – Alexandria/Arlington Regional Workforce Council
  • Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services
  • Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services
  • Virginia Small Business Development Center
  • Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

All DMV

Meet Our Staff

Nikki Powis, Director, CNPP
Nikki Powis brings over 30 years of experience managing programs to advance economic opportunities for underrepresented and underserved populations at the local, regional and statewide level. Nikki has worked as an educator and coordinator of Workforce Programs to include education and expansion of small business ownership and has experience developing curriculum for entrepreneurship and small business development.
npowis@ndi-inc.org

Michael Morris, JD, Senior Strategic Advisor, CNPP
Michael is the founder of NDI and serves as Senior Strategic Advisor, bringing more than 40 years of experience focused on economic empowerment for individuals with disabilities, including serving as legal counsel to the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, legal counsel to the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Disability Policy and Executive Director of United Cerebral Palsy Associations.
mmorris@ndi-inc.org

Ruth Chavez, Community Navigator
Ruth Chavez is the Community Navigator for the SBA’s Community Navigator Pilot Program a division of National Disability Institute (NDI). She previously worked as a bilingual business consultant and training coordinator for the Maryland Small Business Development Center at the University of Maryland, College Park. In her previous role, she provided technical assistance and relevant business training and events for small businesses throughout the state of Maryland who were impacted by COVID-19. Ruth has over 10 years of experience in working with small businesses with a focus on underserved communities of color and low-income. She also has six years of experience in tax preparation. She worked as a volunteer to provide financial literacy at IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites to provide free tax preparation to low-income and senior communities. Ruth is an entrepreneur herself, always seeking new opportunities with purpose and creativity.
rchavez@ndi-inc.org

Caroline Bolas, Small Business Specialist
Caroline Bolas is the Small Business Specialist at NDI. Caroline has had a varied career, including being a small business owner, a nonprofit consultant, and a direct service provider to people with disabilities. She has extensive project management, training, and curriculum development experience. Prior to joining NDI, most recently Caroline served as the Maryland State SOAR Lead, providing technical assistance to the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery program. Caroline holds a master’s degree in Occupational Psychology from London Guildhall University and a master’s degree in Social Policy and Social Work from the London School of Economics. Outside of work, Caroline enjoys hiking, photography and nature walks with her dog, Winston Churchill Bear.
cbolas@ndi-inc.org
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