World Learning Recognizes UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities

World Learning will host a Google Hangout discussing international exchange and disabilities issues at noon EST on Tuesday, December 3, 2013. Tara Sonenshine will moderate a panel discussion with three women who will share their experiences studying abroad with a disability. Watch the Hangout live on our website and follow the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag #IDPD2013 and #IDPD2013atWL.

Message from World Learning President and CEO Donald Steinberg

Leahy Success 1 Lebanon web

A participant receives her certificate for completing a course providing job skills training for persons with disabilities in Lebanon.

United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities is annually held on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. The theme this year is “Break barriers, open doors: for an inclusive society for all.”

World Learning seeks to include persons with disabilities in all of its activities and welcomes opportunities to engage with partners in new initiatives utilizing its core strengths in Capacity Building, Grant Management, Training and Exchanges, Education, HIV/AIDS, and Civil Society and Governance. Our SIT Graduate Institute and SIT Study Abroad as well as those programs sponsored by the U.S. Government and other donors focus specifically on the needs of persons with disabilities while others target a broader audience. World Learning has worked with many individuals with disabilities over the years through our academic and professional exchange programs. Last month we held an event in Washington with experts on disabilities and the workplace. Other accomplishments in this area include:

Academic Exchanges
Through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program for East Asia and the Pacific and the Western Hemisphere, funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, World Learning facilitates meaningful non-degree academic year exchanges for hundreds of students from more than 20 countries. In regards to
disability support, World Learning:

  • Arranged for orientation and mobility training for a visually impaired Filipino student;
  • Placed a Malaysian student with muscular dystrophy at a college where she could receive free physical therapy; and
  • Purchased and set up training on an electric scooter for a Chinese student who suffered from paralysis in order to facilitate her mobility around campus.

World Learning has also managed four years of successful non-degree exchanges for more than 160 students through the FORECAST Exchange Program for Serbia and Montenegro
funded by USAID. A hearing-impaired Serbian student volunteered with the hearing
specialist for a school district in southern Minnesota, enhancing the student’s knowledge about deaf education in the United States. For the 2011–2012 academic year, World Learning worked with a US university to arrange special housing and transportation accommodations for a Serbian student with cerebral palsy.

Professional Exchanges
World Learning’s Community Connections program funded by USAID has organized seven programs over the years focused on capacity building for disability support non-profits in Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Leaders of these organizations came to the United States to advance their knowledge of disability support. For USAID’s participant training for Albania, World Learning set up several programs for leaders of disability support organizations which included:

  • Coordinating a Mobility International Program in Eugene, Oregon for a blind female participant.
  • Bringing two participants from a local NGO in Albania to attend the ninth Children’s Congress in Washington, DC. These participants sought training in ways to include disabled children and youth in everyday community life, including improving their access to community services.
  • Arranging for an Albanian woman, confined to a wheelchair, to spend a semester studying English at the American English Institute of the University of Oregon.

Our commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities into our programs will remain strong in 2014. Read an op-ed by Tara Sonenshine, our strategic advisor on communications, which reinforces the needs of those in the US and around the world.

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