Many of us take for granted that we can walk, run, jump, or even stand up, but for many people, any of those actions are impossible. More than 48.9 million people in the United States have a disability of some kind, either physical or mental, and these disabilities place a heavy toll on the individuals themselves as well as their families and caregivers. Thankfully, however, there’s an organization that works hard on behalf of Americans with disabilities: Easterseals.
Easterseals is a nonprofit that strives to improve the quality of life and provide resources for disabled persons through its network of 550 service sites in the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Australia. It serves about 1.5 million people with disabilities and their families through medical rehabilitation, which could include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and more, as well as residential services, job training and employment, child care programs, adult day programs, and other initiatives.
The organization began in 1919 when Edgar Allen, an Ohio businessmen who lost his son in a streetcar accident over 10 years earlier, founded the National Society for Crippled Children; in those days, families often hid members with disabilities from public view, so Allen’s organization was one of the first of its kind.
In 1934, the organization launched its first “seals” campaign during the Easter season where donors could buy special seals to place on envelopes or letters as a way of raising money and publicly showing their support. One popular design featured the lily flower, a symbol of spring and resurrection, which became the organization’s official logo in 1952 and has appeared on every seal since then. In fact, thanks to the incredible public success of the “seal” campaigns, the organization changed its name to Easterseals in 1967.
In recent years, Easterseals has come to serve an increasing number of people with autism, who it helps through its existing services that cater to children or adults as well as through resources and programs it has developed specifically for people with an autism spectrum disorder. Its range of autism-related services already includes early intervention programs for children, child care, social integration, and more.