Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation

Contact: Rebecca Bliss, Program Officer

1150 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Suite 1020

Washington, DC 20036

Tel: (202) 857-0031

Fax: (202) 857-0056

Web: http://www.meaf.org

Though new advances in technology are making it possible for students with disabilities to join their peers in the mainstream classroom, the cost of such technologies is often prohibitive for many school districts. If you’ve come up with an innovative idea for using technology to address the needs of disabled students, you might want to solicit the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) to help fund your project.

With a current endowment of $18 million, MEAF supports projects that help young people with disabilities maximize their potential and fully participate in society. Beginning this year, the foundation is focusing exclusively on technological approaches to serving the needs of youths with disabilities.

In carrying out its mission, the foundation provides three types of grants: Starfish grants for programs of national scope and impact, or for model projects that can be replicated at multiple sites; matching grants that supplement cash, products, and volunteer time donated by Mitsubishi Electric America companies in their communities; and gifts that match donations from individual employees.

Starfish grants

These are one- or two-year grants that fund an innovative technological approach to advancing the independence, productivity, or inclusion of youths with disabilities. They are approved by the foundation’s board of directors in consultation with experts in the fields of disability and education. Projects most likely to be funded are those with a potential for wide or national impact.

On Jan. 5, MEAF awarded $474,000 in 1999 Starfish grants to 12 organizations. Examples of successful projects include:

American Foundation for the Blind (two years): $66,000 to place blind or visually impaired high school students as interns in AFB’s Product Evaluation Laboratory.

DO-IT/University of Washington (two years): $60,000 to fund an accessible video and publication entitled “Lessons Learned,” detailing successful transitions from school to work by students with disabilities.

Family Village (one year): $10,000 to operate an information clearinghouse and online meeting space for families of children with disabilities.

National Lekotek Center (one year): $33,000 to run an inclusive after-school program that teaches computer skills to elementary school children.

WGBH-TV, Boston (one year): $50,000 to help develop the first fully accessible distance learning module and accessibility guidelines for other multimedia curriculum products.

World Institute on Disability (two years): $55,000 to create an interactive training module for teachers to improve their ability to help students with disabilities use the internet in inclusive classrooms.

Matching grants

Matching grants are approved by employees serving on contributions committees at Mitsubishi Electric America (MEA) companies. They are given for local projects assisting young people with disabilities in MEA communities. These grants build on donations of cash, products, and volunteer time contributed by MEA companies and employees to address local needs identified by employees.

Examples include providing an elementary school with funds to purchase computers; supporting fundraising events in the community; and donating products or in-kind support to local nonprofit organizations.

Each participating MEA facility receives an annual allocation from the foundation that is leveraged by corresponding contributions from the company. The funds are disbursed according to the giving guidelines and policies at each location. For every dollar donated in the form of cash and products, the foundation donates up to two dollars to the charity. MEAF also contributes $10 for each volunteer hour worked by employees, their families, and close friends in eligible charitable activities.

MEA companies are located in 18 communities in California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. A complete listing of MEA communities is available on the foundation’s web site.

Equal Access Project

Boston Public Schools is an example of a district that has benefitted from its partnership with a local MEA branch company. The city’s disabled students have been enriched by more than $117,000 in MEAF grants awarded to the Special Education Technology Resource Center at Emmanuel College since 1992.

The center’s Equal Access Project promotes the mainstreaming of children with disabilities into regular school classes using software designed by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) and innovative teaching strategies. The project is aimed not only at enhancing the educational experience of the students, but also at improving the effectiveness and sensitivity of classroom teachers in working with them.

In addition to national grants from the foundation, the nearby Waltham- and Cambridge-based Mitsubishi Electric locations contributed more than $16,000 in corporate funds to the project, leveraging an additional $32,500 from MEAF. Moreover, employees from both companies have been active project partners, offering assistance in training teachers on the use of the grant-funded computers and software.

Grant funds purchased hardware and software to implement this demonstration project at the Harvard-Kent Elementary School, a multi-ethnic, inner city school in Boston, and to support replication of the project at other Boston schools.

The project has had remarkable success, both in terms of academic progress made by individual students and in reducing attitudinal barriers among teachers and non-disabled students.

How to apply for funding

MEAF grants are made to non-profit organizations with tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Schools and school districts are eligible to apply. Requests are welcome from organizations throughout the U.S., but priority is given to projects implemented in communities where MEA companies are located.

To apply, you must first submit a short concept paper to Rebecca Bliss, Program Officer, for preliminary review. The concept paper should not exceed three pages and should include the following elements:

• Explanation of need and objectives for the funds requested

• Description of the project’s impact and/or how it may be replicated on a national

basis

• Plans for evaluation of project activities and dissemination of results

• Budget summary

Concept papers may be submitted at any time and are reviewed throughout the year. Applicants whose concept papers have passed the preliminary review will receive detailed instructions for submitting a full proposal.