"Traveling abroad has been a huge part of my development as a person. When I came back from Mali, my first trip abroad, my parents noticed a difference in me. I was more confident. And they felt more confident in me going and doing things on my own."
- Haben Girma, U.S. disability rights advocate who volunteered abroad as a teen, "Moving Out Into the World" video (embedded).
Why Youth with Disabilities? Why International Exchange?
International exchange offers valuable opportunities for youth with disabilities to experience leadership development and personal growth. The experience of leaving home and gaining independence is challenging for most youth, and can be even more so for youth with disabilities who may not have had equal access to independent living skills and self-advocacy in their school and community.
Youth with disabilities, both from the U.S. and overseas, represent a small, but vital group of exchange participants. For example, approximately 1% of FLEX and YES program students sponsored by the U.S. Department of State have a disability. Increasing participation of disabled youth in international opportunities is critical for shaping a future of exchange that is inclusive of the full diversity of the world’s citizens.
“The next generation of world travelers – youth with disabilities – are transforming ideas of disability rights like we have never seen before. It’s our time and responsibility to ensure that youth with disabilities are fully represented and have equal access to the life-changing experience of international exchange.”
- Susan Sygall, CEO, Mobility International USA
What is "Generation ADA"?
Generation ADA refers to the generation of young people with disabilities who have grown up in an era impacted by the Americans with Disabilities Act, a landmark civil rights legislation passed in 1990 in the United States. This generation takes pride in its disability identity, values self-advocacy, and has high expectations for access and inclusion. Many young people with disabilities around the world are also influenced by the ADA, either experiencing its impact as exchange students in the U.S., or indirectly through the ripple effects that the ADA has had globally.
"[In my U.S. host community] I was taught how to get around my school of 2,100 students. I was taught how to go to the elementary school where I was volunteering and tutoring. I learned many things living away from my own family like making my pancakes in the microwave, cleaning the bathtub, and typing on the computer...The fact that I could study in a mainstream school and volunteer in a mainstream school by teaching and tutoring a blind student were maybe indirect results and outcomes of the ADA and of all of those fights."
- Esma Gumberidze, FLEX program alum and U.N. Youth Delegate from Georgia
Who Should Get Involved
- Teenagers/high school students/secondary school students with disabilities
- Young adults with disabilities
- Non-disabled young people who want to be allies to their disabled peers
- Parents, family members, and professionals who support young people with disabilities
- International exchange providers that implement youth exchange programs
NCDE’s Youth-Focused Activities for 2021
- Access to Exchange Institute, a three-week online course for U.S. young adults with disabilities to learn how to study or volunteer abroad.
- Joining Hands - Youth Exchange Track, a webinar series for international exchange professionals to include young people with disabilities in youth programs.
- Access to Exchange Externship, a leadership opportunity for U.S. and non-U.S. young adults with disabilities who have an interest in diversifying the field of international education and exchange.
- Go Global Fair, a virtual fair for U.S. young people with disabilities, parents, and family members to sample the broad array of international exchange programs.
- Meet the Influencers, a social media campaign inviting influential activists, artists, travelers, leaders and others with disabilities to share their messages of encouragement for young disabled people to cultivate their global consciousness.
To stay tuned for details about these and other upcoming activities and events, sign up for the NCDE e-news.
Other Ways to Get Involved
- Invite NCDE to your youth event. Do you plan to host an event for youth with disabilities in 2021? Request a speaker from NCDE to get them excited about the world of possibilities and opportunities through international exchange!
- Share your story! Are you a young person (25 or under) with a disability who traveled between the U.S. and another country as part of an international exchange program (e.g. volunteer abroad, internship abroad, class trip overseas, study abroad, etc.)? Tell us about it! Your story and/or photos might be featured on the MIUSA website and perhaps influence other youth to go abroad too!
- Share good practices. International exchange professionals who have supported young participants with disabilities, we want to hear from you! Tell us your experiences in inclusive recruitment, finding accessible homestays, forming partnerships, working with parents, identifying useful resources, and more!
- Connect youth with disabilities to global opportunities. Did you know that the U.S. Department of State offers fully-funded opportunities for U.S. and non-U.S. young people to travel the world on programs such as YES and YES Abroad, CBYX, NSLI-Y, Youth Ambassadors Program, and more? Go apply! Learn about these and other programs, and contact NCDE for more ideas.
- Give a proper send-off! Do you know a young traveler with a disability about to embark upon an international exchange journey? Contact NCDE to send them a “Bon Voyage” package with goodies, gifts, and tips.
Questions? Contact NCDE.
- Website: Exchange Programs for U.S. and non-U.S. youth, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State
- Tip Sheet: Designing Disability-Inclusive Youth Programs
- Online Journal: A World Awaits You journal highlighting Youth with Disabilities in Exchange
- Best Practice: Youth Exchange Recruiter Shares Passion for Inclusion
- Story: “Dear Future Exchange Student,” An Open Letter From a Disabled Foreign Exchange Student
- Story: An Extraordinary Ordinary Year
- Video: Moving Out Into the World
- Webinar: “New Directions in International Exchange and Next Steps” featuring keynote speakers Anna Landre and Esma Gumberidze
United Nations International Youth Day | Thursday, August 12, 2021.
Youth-focused members of NCDE’s Roundtable Consortium on Disability and Exchange, MIUSA’s Excellence in Development and Disability Inclusion (EDDI) membership, and others.
- AFS-USA, Inc.
- Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET)
- PACER Center
- Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD)
- 2-Gether International
- Save the Children
- International Youth Foundation
- MADRE - VIVA Girls
- World Learning
Is your organization interested in collaborating with NCDE to engage youth with disabilities in international exchange? Let’s connect!