Press release issued from the National Disability Institute on October 3, 2012:National Disability Institute initiative helps more than 1.5 million people with disabilities receive tax refunds of more than $1.4 billion Real Economic Impact Tour forges public-private partnerships to help Americans with disabilities move toward greater financial stability (Washington, D.C. -- Oct. 3, 2012) -- National Disability Institute announced Wednesday that its Real Economic Impact (REI) Tour -- an eight-year collaboration with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and more than 900 public and private partners in 100 cities across America -- helped more than 1.5 million Americans with disabilities move toward greater financial stability by receiving more than $1.4 billion in tax refunds. IRS Karen Becton-Johnson and other IRS employees joined representatives from National Disability Institute and its public and private partners including United Way Worldwide, Gallaudet University and the DC Tax Coalition, at IRS Headquarters in Washington, DC, to celebrate eight years of success and kick off the ninth year of a partnership that has expanded services to citizens with disabilities by promoting full inclusion and increasing capacities of tax coalitions and asset development groups to better serve persons with disabilities at a local, state and national level. Since National Disability Institute and the IRS joined forces in 2005 to better serve taxpayers with disabilities and engaged more than 900 community tax coalitions, asset development and disability organizations across America, the number of persons with disabilities accessing free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services and realizing they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as other tax credits has increased dramatically: 5,316 percent increase in number of persons with disabilities filing taxes through REI Tour VITA sites (7,600 in 2005 to more than 411,000 in 2012); 5,813 percent increase in the amount of tax refunds received by persons with disabilities through REI Tour VITA sites ($6.8 million in 2005 to more than $405.1 million in 2012); 8,286 percent increase in Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) claims filed through REI Tour VITA sites ($0.7 million in 2005 to more than $58.7 million in 2012). "One of the first steps toward financial independence is finding ways to maximize your personal bottom line. By increasing access to free volunteer tax preparation services and promoting education about Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) eligibility, National Disability Institute and its public and private partners in 100 cities across the country are helping Americans with disabilities keep more of the money they earn and take vital steps toward greater financial stability," said Michael Morris, National Disability Institute's Executive Director. There are more than 54 million Americans with disabilities, one out of every five Americans. Nearly one in three Americans with disabilities lives in poverty. That's nearly double the national poverty rate and among the highest poverty rate for any underserved population in our country. National Disability Institute is proud of the public and private partnerships we've formed with hundreds of government agencies, organizations and businesses who understand that community programs and services not accessible to or inclusive of persons with disabilities leaves a huge portion of the community unserved or underserved, Morris added. With one in five American adults with disabilities living in households earning $15,000 or less, we need to do everything we can to provide them the right tools and the right services, said Peggy Bogadi, IRS Wage and Investment division commissioner. The IRS is extremely grateful to National Disability Institute and to all our partner organizations that have taken on this challenge. Through our combined effort and outreach events like the Real Economic Impact Tour, we can make a more meaningful difference in the lives of people with disabilities. In addition to Becton-Johnson, Mel Hardy and Karuyna Samuel from IRS, Morris and Dr. Johnette Harnett from National Disability Institute, event speakers included representatives from National Disability Institute's non-profit partners including Laura Scherler, Director of Income Capacity Building at United Way Worldwide, who partners with NDI on the MyFreeTaxes campaign funded by Walmart; Dr. Isaac Agboola, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Sciences and Technologies at Gallaudet University, the world's leading undergraduate liberal arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing based in Washington, DC; Dr. Karen Alkoby, Associate Professor of Information Technology at Gallaudet, as well as a current Gallaudet student and two 2012 Gallaudet graduates who now work for the IRS who created for their senior project a website and national training video in American Sign Language (ASL) in collaboration with Gallaudet faculty, NDI and IRS to train individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing to become VITA volunteer income tax preparers and better serve deaf and hard of hearing taxpayers nationwide and J.C. Craig of Washington, D.C's Community Tax Aid, recognized in 2011 by National Disability Institute for its outreach to taxpayers with disabilities. National Disability Institute's REI Tour sponsors Walmart, Bank of America, Acorda Therapeutics, the Institute for Economic Empowerment and the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University were also recognized for their support. National Disability Institute's REI Tour is an example of real economic impact. Over the past eight years, the REI Tour has helped taxpayers with disabilities save $316 million in tax preparation fees and receive more than $175 million in Earned Income Tax Credits that may have been left on the table had it not been for this outreach and education, said Dr. Hartnett, National Disability Institute's Director of Strategic Partnerships and co-founder of the REI Tour. The REI Tour is the national leader in testing and introducing the innovative use of technology to reach rural and deaf taxpayers through Virtual VITA and its DeafTax initiatives. With more than 80 million Americans eligible for low-income tax credits, innovative use of technology is essential. United Way Worldwide is pleased to partner with National Disability Institute to provide free tax-filing services for people who earn less than $57,000 per year to traditionally underserved populations, including persons with disabilities. Our ongoing partnership with National Disability Institute ensures United Way community-based strategies are inclusive and have the ability to improve the entire community. When organizations work together to address specific issues by leveraging their specific strengths, our collective impact is far greater, said Laura Scherler, Director of Income Capacity Building at United Way Worldwide. "I commend the work of the Gallaudet University students and faculty who have donated their time and energy to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program over the years," said Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz. "Since 2004, Gallaudet VITA volunteers have served the tax needs of countless deaf and hard of hearing taxpayers in the D.C. region and around the country. Now, with this new training video and website geared toward training deaf volunteers all over the country so they can better assist deaf taxpayers in their communities, we can benefit even more people within the deaf and hard of hearing community." In 2013, National Disability Institute will continue to grow its Real Economic Impact network of more than 900 partners in 100 cities across America by expanding its virtual trainings and tools, such as online disability awareness training for the entire VITA volunteer network, to reach more tax coalitions, asset development, disability organizations and other agencies and groups dedicated to economic empowerment. For more information on National Disability Institute and the Real Economic Impact Tour visit http://www.realeconomicimpact.org. To download an overview of the 2011-2012 Real Economic Impact Tour Snapshot Report, visit http://bit.ly/RcADoN Gallaudet University, federally chartered in 1864, is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.