Disability Rights Education Defense Funds, Inc.

aka DREDF   |   Berkeley, CA   |


The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center dedicated to furthering the civil and human rights of people with disabilities. Founded in 1979, DREDF continues to be managed and directed by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities. Our work promotes the full integration of people with disabilities into the mainstream of society.

Ruling year info


Principal Officer

Susan Henderson

Main address

3075 Adeline Street, Suite 210

Berkeley, CA 94703 USA

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NTEE code info

Disabled Persons' Rights (R23)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The pandemic crises are an amplification of the systemic inequities that are all too familiar to many disabled people and families. They bring policy responses that can be life-threatening, as with proposed medical rationing. But their new scope and scale have made visible the structural ableism in healthcare, education, disaster planning, and emergency response that have long caused disabled people to endure a state of “permanent emergency” that is so endemic as to be the “natural” outcome of disability. Whether it's in the name of being sacrificed for a greater good or because of a perceived scarcity of resources, disabled, chronically ill, and/or aging people continue to be at risk, which is further heightened for disabled Black and Brown people. DREDF is using its well-established healthcare equity, education access, and other programs to respond quickly and forcefully to legal and policy encroachments on disability civil and human rights, and ensure our voices are heard.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Children and Family Advocacy

The goal of the Children and Family Advocacy program is to preserve, strengthen and enforce the rights of children with disabilities. We use our long-established strategies of legal advocacy, public policy and legislative development, and training and education, toward that end.

DREDF is a Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) funded by the US Department of Education. PTIs serve families of children and young adults from birth to age 26 with all disabilities: physical, cognitive, emotional, and learning.

Population(s) Served
Young adults

We design and carry out strategies that strengthen public policy and that lead to the enactment of federal and state laws protecting and advancing civil rights for people with disabilities such as the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act, the Civil Rights Restoration Act, the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and the IDEA Amendments Act.

Population(s) Served

Since our founding in 1979, DREDF has brought cases designed to further the civil rights of people with disabilities. We advocate for clients and represent them in court, serve as co-counsel, and file amicus curiae briefs in appellate courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in high impact disability rights cases. We select cases and issues that have the potential to affect large groups of people with disabilities and achieve law reform.

Population(s) Served

Staff meet and work regularly with international visitors to the United States, and have conducted civil rights workshops, trainings and consultation in Japan, Vietnam, Guam, Palau, Russia, Germany, Bosnia, Wales, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. We have developed workshops and provided consultation in these countries in collaboration with disability, governmental and relief organizations in the United States, including Mobility International USA (MIUSA), the U.S. State Department, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). DREDF staff have also provided training and consultation at the direct request of leaders with disabilities from various countries.

DREDF specializes in working with emerging leaders with disabilities and parents who are developing strategies for social change in their countries and locales. Workshops, training and consultation topics and content are tailored to meet the needs these leaders identify. Topics can include coalition building, issues and goals identification, leadership development, use of media, role of the rule of law, strategies for self empowerment, and potential approaches to legal reforms in light of local and regional circumstances.

Population(s) Served

We train and educate people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities about their rights under state and federal disability rights laws so they can use the laws as tools to challenge exclusion and discrimination, and advocate effectively for full participation in the lives of their communities.
We educate lawyers, service providers, government officials, and many others about disability civil rights laws and policies

Population(s) Served

People with disabilities experience a range of physical, programmatic and systemic barriers when they try to access healthcare. We work out ways to apply existing laws and principles of disability non-discrimination in the complicated context of how health care services are delivered in this country.

Population(s) Served

The goal of the Media and Disability program. is to change the focus from sensational, cloying and misinformed disability coverage that undermines the public policy and legal advances of the last 25 years to coverage that raises public awareness and helps to end disability discrimination.

Our Media and Disability Program establishes a mechanism for monitoring and informing disability coverage in news reports, dramatic representations, and reporting on the Internet with the goal to advance accurate reporting of disability issues and promote positive images of people with disabilities.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

DREDF's longer-term goal is that disability will no longer be understood as a default gateway to poverty, segregation, and institutionalization (including incarceration), and legal and policy remedies will reflect agendas for dismantling structural ableism.

Our primary goal for the next 1-2 years is to preserve, enforce, and advance our established legal protections in disability rights law, policy, and regulations despite efforts to roll them back because of the pandemic and other crises. This will require flexibility and rapid response. As disabled people must, DREDF will continue to be intentional in what we seek to achieve but remain poised to adapt as conditions shift.

Our top 3 goals are:

1. Disabled students will be more resilient as a result of their schools educating them as required by law and safe from illegal seclusion and restraint practices. This will include not allowing schools to "forget" or treat disabled students as "nonessential" during this crisis.

We will accomplish this by providing Know Your Rights trainings and materials to a minimum of 1,750 disabled youth, parents, family caregivers, and child welfare professionals in Northern California, together with targeted policy development and impact litigation on a national level.

2. Disabled patients, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will have improved access to health care and supports, and will have an equal chance to benefit from care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We'll accomplish this by building on the expertise of our long-established health equity program, and continuing to fight discriminatory health-care rationing policies at the state and hospital level, and advocate to ensure that reasonable modifications are in place for disabled patients. We will also push for personal protective equipment (PPE), infection control, and other necessary safeguards for disabled people and their services providers at home and in congregate settings.
3. Disabled people's and their families' financial stability, safety, and dignity will be supported by online access that allows them to communicate, connect, and cope during the COVID-19 crisis and at any time.

We'll accomplish this by holding the digital world accountable and insisting that access and communication are equally available to people with disabilities including those living in rural communities. This means virtual meetings, events, communications, and content that are accessible and inclusive, including congregate and healthcare settings where disabled consumers will retain their right to their assistive technology, devices, and support. We will continue pushing – as we always have – for application and vigorous enforcement of the ADA in the digital world, just as we do in the built world by bringing complaints, providing technical assistance, and developing rigorous access standards.

Cross-movement solidarity is integral to our advocacy because: 1) We can serve many more disabled people by working with collaborative partners and allies, including the many people who don't feel a connection to any aspect of disability; 2) The quality of our services - and our movements - will be better for them being informed by the greater breadth of viewpoint, identity, and experience that comes from building bridges and coalitions with disability justice activists and across movements.

DREDF expands access to health care, government services and benefits, housing, public accommodations, transportation, higher education, architectural access, and employment. 1/3 of our work advances the rights of disabled students though Know Your Rights trainings, and by serving 1750+ families during our 35th year as a federally-funded Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) for much of Northern California. Our current impact litigation has been focusing on communication and tech access, and protecting public benefits. We conduct research and analysis for healthcare, school discipline, and transportation policy; and more.

In 2020-21, we will:

1. Collaborate with advocacy and other organizations representing marginalized communities to bring disability civil rights protections to the communities that have benefited least from the disability rights movement.

2. Engage in litigation, vigorous enforcement, administrative remedies, and amici curiae, and impact litigation that implicate the intersection of disability with race, poverty, immigration status, sexual identity, and orientation.

3. Engage in impact litigation, amici curiae, and federal and state regulatory and sub-regulatory advocacy to defend and expand disability civil rights protections, essential health coverage requirements, and physical and programmatic accessibility in the health care setting.

4. Monitor and respond to proposed federal legislation, regulations, executive orders, and policies that threaten disability civil rights.

5. Develop and implement a strategic communications program that amplifies diverse cross-disability voices to educate the media and public about disability civil rights.

COVID-specific activities:

1. Advocate in all COVID responses to effect change through legislatures, agencies, media, and the public.

2. Provide advocacy training to ensure that disabled students' education rights are not "forgotten" or dismissed as "nonessential" during this crisis.

3. Advocate for application of the ADA to the digital world so the greatest number of people possible are able to communicate, connect, and cope during this crisis.

4. Provide legal expertise and technical assistance to activist groups and informal coalitions on issues such as existing nondiscrimination laws and policies, and through Know Your Rights materials.

5. Apply our experience gained through our past disaster planning/emergency response advocacy to systems change.

From before the passage of the ADA into the present, DREDF has always understood and communicated that people with disabilities experience discrimination in virtually every aspect of life and that this social response emanates from a deeply embedded historical legacy of fear, pity and prejudice—a radical insight in the 1970s and still underappreciated today.

DREDF also represents the particular, Bay Area-based, progressive arm of the disability rights movement that has always spurred the community to demand everything and accept nothing less. The Bay Area is the home of the first Center for Independent Living (CIL), the historic 1977 504 Sit-In, and the universally designed Ed Roberts Campus (ERC) where DREDF is a founding partner.

DREDF specializes in the implementation and enforcement of federal disability rights laws, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, prohibiting disability-based discrimination by recipients of federal funds; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975 (IDEA), guaranteeing appropriate education services in the “least restrictive environment” for children with disabilities; the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988 (FHAA); and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). We also work with state disability civil rights laws, including the California Fair Employment & Housing Act (FEHA), the Unruh Civil Rights Act, the California Disabled Persons Act (CDPA) and California Government Code 11135.

Disability is always an intersectional characteristic. For this reason, DREDF is committed to participating in broad coalitions as a strategy to achieve social justice. We were the first disability group to serve on the Executive Committee of the Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) and remain closely aligned with LCCHR as well as other leading national civil and human rights organizations.

Our coalition and collaborative partners (formal and informal) in all of our work include but are not limited to Disability Rights California (DRC), Justice in Aging (JIA), Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Transgender Law Center, The Arc, AAPD, Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), Bazelon, Not Dead Yet, and CA Foundation of Independent Living Centers (CFILC). We have long been a member of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) and other workgroups.

We recently collaborated with the #NoBodyIsDisposable coalition, Justice in Aging, Disability Rights California, and the SF Independent Living Resource Center on protecting disabled, chronically ill, aging, and fat people from discrimination in California's proposed medical rationing plan. Another example is our recent work with the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and the Disability Organizing Network aimed at ensuring disabled Californians are counted in the 2020 Census.

2019-20 Highlights (See our COVID-19 Advocacy & Resources at

• We successfully fought discrimination in California’s COVID rationing guidelines in coalition. We challenged states’ plans for rationing medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such policies have disproportionately impacted Black disabled people.

• We conducted Know Your Rights webinars on COVID-19 to support disability justice coalitions with legal and policy guidance and materials.

• AB 3052 Compensation for Survivors of Forced or Involuntary Sterilization Act: DREDF sought reparations in coalition with CA Latinas for Reproductive Justice and the CA Coalition of Women Prisoners.

• We brought C.B. v. MVUSD, et al., a tort claim on behalf of an 11-year-old Black student with disabilities repeatedly tackled and handcuffed at school. The case will develop legal precedents around limitations that the ADA and other laws place on police force and requirements to use other strategies.

• Disability Rights California v. County of Alameda: DREDF with DRC are challenging the segregation of people with mental health disabilities — especially Black people with disabilities — in psychiatric institutions.

• DREDF, with 11 civil rights and consumer advocacy organizations, opposed a request from healthcare providers for complete legal immunity during the COVID-19 crisis.

• DREDF, along with 18 disability rights organizations, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court case California v. Texas, the latest challenge to the ACA.

• DREDF and partners filed 5 administrative complaints with the CA Department of Public Health against five 5 hospitals regarding essential supports.

• We submitted regulatory comments regarding the Preadmission Screening and Resident Review regarding individuals with mental, intellectual or developmental disabilities to prevent institutionalization.

• With 17 disability and advocacy groups, DREDF successfully championed reinstating Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children.

What's Next:

We'll continue working in coalition with multiply-marginalized grassroots groups on education and access to health care. DREDF’s collaborative work was needed on the front lines serving people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, when legal and policy tools and resources were so essential, and this work is far from done. We were among the first to push back with force against California's healthcare guidelines that would further devalue disabled, chronically ill, and aging lives by distorting the principles of triage and denying us equal access to treatment, and to respond to reports of schools simply ignoring their obligations to disabled students' rights.

How we listen

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Seeking feedback from people served makes programs more responsive and effective. Here’s how this organization is listening.

done We shared information about our current feedback practices.
  • How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

    To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve, To understand people's needs and how we can help them achieve their goals

  • Which of the following feedback practices does your organization routinely carry out?

    We collect feedback from the people we serve at least annually, We take steps to get feedback from marginalized or under-represented people, We take steps to ensure people feel comfortable being honest with us, We look for patterns in feedback based on demographics (e.g., race, age, gender, etc.), We look for patterns in feedback based on people’s interactions with us (e.g., site, frequency of service, etc.), We act on the feedback we receive

  • What challenges does the organization face when collecting feedback?

    It is difficult to get the people we serve to respond to requests for feedback, It is difficult to find the ongoing funding to support feedback collection, Staff find it hard to prioritize feedback collection and review due to lack of time


Disability Rights Education Defense Funds, Inc.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


Build relationships with key people who manage and lead nonprofit organizations with GuideStar Pro. Try a low commitment monthly plan today.

  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Disability Rights Education Defense Funds, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 11/19/2022
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

H. Stephen Kaye

Jim LeBrecht

Berkeley Sound Artists

Meriah Nichols

Talina Jones

New York Early Intervention Coordinating Council

Christina Mills

California Foundation for Independent Living Centers

Anne Cohen

Disability Health Access, LLC

Dorene Giacopini

Metropolitan Transportation Commission

Benita Shaw-Ayala

MIND Institute

Rain Marshall

Northern California Indian Development Council

Steve Kaye

University of California, San Francisco

Judith Heumann

Sharon Lewis

Health Management Associates

Hari Srinivasan

Vanderbilt University

Aubrie Lee


Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 11/19/2022

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person with a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

Transgender Identity

Sexual orientation


Equity strategies

Last updated: 11/19/2020

GuideStar partnered with Equity in the Center - an organization that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems to increase racial equity - to create this section. Learn more

  • We review compensation data across the organization (and by staff levels) to identify disparities by race.
  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We use a vetting process to identify vendors and partners that share our commitment to race equity.
  • We have a promotion process that anticipates and mitigates implicit and explicit biases about people of color serving in leadership positions.
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We measure and then disaggregate job satisfaction and retention data by race, function, level, and/or team.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.