That's a Wrap: 2021 Joining Hands Virtual Symposium

"National Clearinghouse on Disability Exchange Joining Hands Virtual Symposium Image of two hands cupping the globe.
The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) hosted its second Joining Hands Virtual Symposium!
July 28, 2021 - August 4, 2021

The NCDE hosted its 2021 Joining Hands Virtual Symposium on disability inclusion in international exchange from July 28-August 4th and it concluded in its hopes for continued learning, engagement, and collaboration!

Visit the official Joining Hands Virtual Symposium website for this summers program and also highlights and programming from last summer, which includes session recordings, session materials, and virtual accessibility resources. Stayed turned for this summer's session recordings!


The Joining Hands Virtual Symposium offered another virtual gathering on the topic of disability inclusion in international exchange. Utilizing this virtual space, we are able to engage and reach a global community with the goal of bridging both the disability and international exchange communities together in order to ensure more people with disabilities know about the benefits, scholarships, and opportunities of international exchange and to share recommendations for international educators on how to best recruit, support, and plan for access throughout all exchange programs.

Our program included diverse/thoughtful speakers, sessions that were both practical and thought-provoking, and engaging platforms including our "Disability Community Rooms", "Disability at the Movies", “Pathways to Global Careers” virtual poster fair and two music performers.


The Joining Hands Symposium always invites a global audience to join us! This year the NCDE had close to 1,000 registrants from 31 different countries. The audience included:

  • International exchange alumni with disabilities
  • People with disabilities interested in participating in international exchange
  • International educators and exchange practitioners/providers
  • Disability organizations and disability service professionals
  • U.S. Department of State staff and partners
  • Volunteer-sending organizations
  • Anyone interested in enhancing disability access in the broad range of international opportunities and citizen diplomacy!

Going Forward: 

We had a session on “Effective Outreach to People with Disabilities for International Exchange”, which was led by 3 prominent disability organizations sharing their recommendations. All were happy to connect with attendees to continue the conversation.

Going forward, we want international educators to start connecting with disability organizations to share more about your programs and learn directly from disability organizations and communities about any questions you have for effective outreach.

Throughout the symposium we heard from many exchange alumni with disabilities including our panels on:

  • Alumni with Disabilities Reflect on Fulbright’s Global Impact
  • Not Just Study Abroad: The Wide World of Experiential International Exchange
  • Disability and Identity Abroad
  • All 4 of our "Disability Community Rooms"

People with disabilities want to participate in international exchange. Many people with disabilities do not know about the opportunities, the experiences of others, scholarship opportunities, and about the resources and services of our NCDE.

Going forward, we want disability organizations to promote the benefits and opportunities of international exchange in all your events and materials, including webinars (invite us to join!), newsletters, and social media!

Our hope is that this community will ensure people with disabilities in the U.S. and other countries participating in exchange is mainstream! We encourage organizations to reach out to each other and continue to learn from each other through the Joining Hands community that we continue to grow!

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.  

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