2018 Joining Hands: A Symposium on Disability and Exchange

Joining Hands logo with 2 hands on a globe "July 17, 2018" Symposium on Disability Inclusion in International Exchange
The Joining Hands Symposium brought together attendees and presenters who are passionate about access to international exchange.
July 17, 2018

“The spirit of the symposium was so affirmative and life-reinforcing - we all felt welcome and included and engaged.”

 “I felt like for the first time I was in the room with all the people I needed to talk to. PLEASE do this event again!”

“The event was a great mix of practical, informative resources/knowledge and personal narratives/experiences -- to me, it struck the perfect balance.”

What if you could spend a day with a group of people interested like you in disability and international exchange? You would be able to get tips on finding your next international opportunities, or the latest best practices on how to more effectively support disabled participants on your programs. That's why in summer 2018, the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) convened Joining Hands, a one-day symposium on the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange.


The event was attended by a diverse group of international exchange alumni with disabilities, disability rights leaders, international educators and exchange professionals, U.S. Department of State staff, volunteer-sending programs, and others who are passionate about enhancing disability access in the broad range of international exchange opportunities and citizen diplomacy.


It was truly an energetic day for change as panelists and attendees traded ideas for increasing the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the United States and other countries. Sessions in the morning equipped participants with the practical skills for building teams of inclusion across their organizations, to troubleshoot reasonable accommodations regardless of the country, and to identify personal assistant services. In the afternoon, things got a bit more specialized with discussions of advocating for better policies of inclusion, finding accessible hotels and creating accessible itineraries.


International exchange is simply better when we meet people from diverse backgrounds both in the communities that we visit as well as among those with whom we travel. Ann Cody hit the nail on the head when she declared that an inclusive exchange is good for everyone. And inclusion can be found anywhere, both in traditional as well as nontraditional destinations. The most important thing to remember is that information and resources are key for success, and that none of us should go it alone.

Thank you to all of those who were able to join us as presenters or delegates. We really appreciate the participation of organizations like The Department Of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, IREX, Cultural Vistas and others. We hope to see more of you next time.

Please refer to the Joining Hands Symposium website to access the agenda and transcripts of all of the sessions.

View the photo slideshow below, or view on Flickr to access visual descriptions.

The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange is a project of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the United States and other countries, and is supported in its implementation by Mobility International USA (MIUSA).

Event location: 

Washington, DC

Photo Gallery: