To increase the number of people with disabilities involved in international exchange, study abroad, research and volunteer service overseas, we count on the guidance and support of advocates in the fields of international exchange and disability rights and services. That's why MIUSA co-leads the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) Roundtable Consortium along with NCDE's sponsor, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
For six and a half years, Judith Heumann, an internationally-recognized leader in the disability community and a lifelong civil rights advocate, has served the United States Department of State as the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights. Furthermore, since the establishment of Mobility International USA, she has strongly supported its efforts and has been an actively involved in MIUSA’s international and national programs and events.
Pinar, a Turkish high school student who is blind, received a full scholarship to study abroad on the U.S. Department of State’s Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program. “Of course, my parents were really worried because my safety is important to them. Probably the most important thing!” says Pinar, reflecting on her experience. She lived with an American host family on weekends and stayed on campus at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind during the week.
“Yeah…that sounds interesting. Let’s do it.” I had just committed myself to spending a semester at University of California – Berkeley teaching English to Guatemalan refugees with a friend. She had found a local Bay Area-based nonprofit that helps to connect refugees from Central America with services and resources, and one of the things that they offered was English as a second language, taught by volunteers in refugee's homes.
With sponsorship from USAID/Vietnam and the Institute of International Education (IIE), Mobility International USA (MIUSA) organized and facilitated a 10‐day Study Tour in Washington, D.C. for a high-level delegation from Vietnam. In October 2016, delegates engaged in professional meetings, interactive seminars and workshops, panel discussions, site visits, and strategic planning sessions.
Mobility International USA is always looking for surveys or research in the disability or international education fields that have the potential to shine a light on the participation and experiences of people with disabilities in international exchange. If surveys ask both "Do you have a disability?" and "Did you [study, volunteer, intern, teach, research] abroad?," then we do our best to request and report on the data, so we can all learn more from the findings.
"Celebrating MIUSA's Story" is a tribute to Mobility International USA's amazing accomplishments since 1981, made possible by our wonderful staff, donors, partners, host families, and alumni around the world.
This book provides an account of our signature projects and programs, upholds testimonials from individuals touched by our work, maps the origins of our hundreds of alumni, and traces a timeline of our major exchange programs, publications and other milestones.
Melissa Gulledge, CIEE Regional Director from South Carolina, has years of experience placing international exchange students from all over the world with American families, but a last minute decision to host a teenager with a disability led to one of her own family’s most meaningful hosting experiences.
The clock was ticking to match Pinar, a young woman from Turkey who is blind, with a host family and school.
MIUSA conducted a one-day arrival orientation in New York, NY, on January 20, 2017, for two high school exchange students with disabilities from Malaysia selected to participate in the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The students joined eleven academic-year YES students with disabilities already living and studying in host communities across the United States.
For many years now education has been viewed as a tool to level the playing field between the haves and have-nots, between elites and groups which have been traditionally marginalized. The idea is that if you give people with disadvantages a hand up, they will turn around and pay it forward in their communities.
Disability is often misunderstood on a deeper level by people who are otherwise knowledgeable of diversity issues.
Co-moderators of this interactive session will dive right into intercultural exercises that will help to make visible some of the hidden assumptions that people make about people with disabilities, and then discuss the underlying values, such as paternalism, that drive these perceptions. Different models of disability will be shown and explained to aid in a shift in thinking.
For two weeks in April 2017, ten professional leaders and policy-makers with and without disabilities from Pakistan convened in Eugene, Oregon and Berkeley, California, for the U.S./Pakistan Disability Policy Professional Exchange Program. The intensive 13-day program empowered people with disabilities, and their allies in government and civil society, to implement and enforce the rights of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.
The NCDE, a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and administered by MIUSA, launched a campaign to encourage more people with disabilities to learn and teach a foreign language abroad, including English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL)! We have some great resources to share from that campaign initiative, and we hope that you will continue to promote and share the message of #AccessLanguages for people with and without disabilities.
On behalf of everyone at Mobility International USA, I want to wish all of our alumni, allies, supporters and disability rights activists everywhere a heartfelt thank you for all the work that each of you is doing to advance the disability rights movement.
It is an honor to be the CEO of MIUSA, whose mission is to advance disability rights and leadership globally so that people with disabilities can take their rightful place in society. We envision that people with disabilities are not only productive citizens, but also leaders of their communities in their countries.
In the years I have led disability leadership programs for young leaders with all types of disabilities to places far and wide. Camping under the stars (and bugs!), rolling along on a ferry boat, and pushing to the top of a medieval castle were all part of the program. Was access perfect? No. Were some students more adventurous than others? Yes.