How to Welcome Staff and Interns with Disabilities to Your International Education Organization

four young people smiling
Building the pipeline of people with disabilities who enter careers in international education can help diversify - and therefore strengthen - your organization and the field as a whole.

Here, we asked people with disabilities to share their tips for what international education organizations can do to fill jobs, internships, or practicum positions with talented professionals and interns with disabilities. You might notice that many of these tips also apply to including people with disabilities as participants in your international exchange programs!

Don't wait for people with disabilities to find you - go find them!

Advertise your open positions at disability job fairs (check out various options online). If your international exchange organization is based in Washington, D.C., contact the U.S. International Council on Disability (USICD) about being a host site for its program that places globally-minded interns with disabilities at a variety of organizations working on international issues.

"We have hosted several interns with disabilities," says Rebecca Berman formerly of World Learning, "which creates opportunities for staff and program participants to see the rich diversity and variety within the disability community."

Show your support.

Use encouraging language in your job postings to convey an inclusive climate, such as "we encourage people with disabilities and other diverse backgrounds to apply." Prospective employees should feel like their identity as a person with a disability will be valued as a potential asset, not as a strike against them.

Consider participating in National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) every October to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities in your organization.

Go into detail.

Be descriptive and specific about the work environment and responsibilities in your job description, and focus on what's essential. Will the position entail sitting at a desk for 8 hours? Being mobile for 4 hours? Interacting with large or small groups of people?

"When we talk about study abroad, we describe what students are expected to do on their study abroad programs," says Juanita Lillie, who conducted her International Education practicum at International Studies Abroad. "It's similar to employment; what are employees expected to do on their job and how can we be inclusive?"

Provide a point person.

Include contact information for someone who can answer questions an applicant may have related to requesting disability accommodations in the application process. This person may be your organization's ADA coordinator, HR, or someone else.

Provide disability-related accommodations.

Connect with Job Accommodation Network (JAN) for technical assistance related to making your working environment accessible to employees with disabilities. Remember to budget for reasonable accommodations!

Work as a team.

Have confidence in hiring new staff with disabilities, and invite feedback as part of your ongoing communication.

"Give your staff and interns the flexibility they need to make the situation work for them and for you," says Stephanie Collins, an intern at World Chicago. "We know what we are doing!"