As a wheelchair rider, special education teacher and avid traveler, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC to speak to a group of 100 students from Russia. The college-age students were about to return to Russia after completing a semester of study in a U.S. college/university. These enthusiastic, intelligent, curious students had been selected for the highly competitive Year of Exchange in America (YEAR) Program which is administered by the Eurasia Foundation and funded by the U.S. State Department.
We are still learning about all the ways in which to internationalize. Recent changes to learning platforms and the possibilities of the virtual at my university have expanded our notion of access, although there is still much room to reimagine how we are doing things. As a faculty member whose work has always been international, but as someone who comes somewhat recently to disability, I've begun to reconsider how we think about what it means to internationalize.
In recent years, we at the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange have been taking a closer look at how disability intersects with other identities in the context of international exchange experiences.
"I have seen many posts online highlighting why studying abroad can be an enriching opportunity for anyone," writes Emely Recinos, author of the blog Thinking Disability Overseas, "but I want this post to be specifically about why people with disabilities have so much to gain from studying abroad."
The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship Program is a program funded by the U.S. Department of State, administered by Howard University, that attracts and prepares outstanding young people for Foreign Service careers in the U.S. Department of State.
You include these young people in opportunities to live with host families and study in U.S. high schools for a year, opening a world of possibilities that they may not have envisioned.
As I near the end of my fall internship with MIUSA, I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful opportunity to support this amazing organization, championing in international development and exchange while fostering leadership among people with disabilities.
For years, the annual Open Doors survey has provided a snapshot of the participation of college students with disabilities and other diverse identities in U.S. study abroad programs. Now a survey from Diversity Abroad is adding to the picture of how diversity is represented in education abroad by inviting international educators to self-identify.
"Travel has been haulted due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak."
"This conference has been cancelled due to the global pandemic."
These were common headlines staff were seeing across all sectors. These were also headlines not only event-goers were monitoring, but also event planners, such as ourselves for our originally planned Joining Hands Symposium in Washington, DC for July 2020.
And the questions began:
"Do we cancel, postpone, or turn our onsite event into a virtual event?"
Myth 1: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) only applies to Americans.
FACT: The ADA is a territory based law, which covers everybody who happens to be on U.S. soil. Citizenship does not matter.