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Trial by Fire: Rising Phoenix

August 8, 2017

By Katie Giles

young woman smile at camera

Katie Giles

Recently, I presented to the Education Practice team at the World Bank. I was asked to share my story as a part of an initiative within the Bank to see the people impacted by disability-inclusive education–not only the numbers and statistics.

I was thrilled to take part in such a nice event. I prepared my presentation well in advance. I practiced and revised and practiced and revised some more. I discussed my presentation content with colleagues and mentors within my network. Yet nothing could prepare me for what I would walk into on presentation day. As one of my closest mentors has said to me, “Sometimes, you have to learn through trial by fire”.

I’m happy to report that I went to trial by fire, and I came out a phoenix. On presentation morning, I found myself waking up quite nervous. I arrived at my presentation early, and my sign language interpreters and I rehearsed it before the start of the session. Everything was settled. Then the room began to fill up, and fill up, and fill up. Before I knew it, we had a packed house. I was shocked, I had thought this would be a smaller event based on the RSVPs!

Nonetheless my presentation was underway. I began to delve into my experiences with inclusive education a deaf student, and my audience appeared to be captivated. My audience was filled with brilliant minds from teachers to Task Team Leaders and even Senior Managers. One person tuned in online all the way from Guinea! It was a very humbling experience.

After I finished, the floor opened for questions. The questions led us to go 30 minutes past our scheduled time frame—I was really impressed and thrilled with the questions asked. I loved the concept of looking past the statistics to the real people who are impacted by inclusive education, but I was worried that sharing my story would leave people with a set vision of what inclusive education looks like. I tried to interweave into my presentation the idea that there is no standard cookbook for inclusion. It is like a grandmother’s recipe—a pinch of this and a pinch of that—but not an exact measurement. The questions I was asked clearly showed that the audience had received the message I intended and was moving along to apply it to their own work.

The entire experience was nerve wracking. I had to make myself vulnerable at a fragile stage in my professional career by sharing very personal stories. I also as a lowly intern was presenting to and advising professionals whom I very much look up to. I’m so grateful to the World Bank and to USICD to putting this internship in place and setting the platform that granted me such an incredible opportunity.

Katie Giles is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). Katie Giles is completing her internship at the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience (GP SURR) Global Practice at the World Bank.  Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or GP SURR or World Bank.

 

The 27th Birthday of the Americans with Disabilities Act

August 3, 2017

By USICD President, Dr. Patricia Morrissey

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Patricia Morrissey

Twenty-seven years ago, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) became law. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to draft amendments, along with my colleague, Randy Johnson, now with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that were retained in the law. The ADA not only transformed communities but recalibrated how we view each other, and built brighter futures for many people. Then from 2002 to 2006, the ADA was the guidebook for drafting the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), a U.N. disabilities rights treaty. The CRPD has been ratified by over 170 nations, but the U.S. is not one of them.

Historically, the U.S. has ratified few UN treaties. When a treaty focuses on human behavior should be, that makes many members of Congress nervous because these members fear that endorsing an international treaty is “potentially” an intrusion on our sovereignty as an independent nation.

But—whether we ratify the CRPD or not at some point—as a nation we stand for and must practice the principles that both the ADA and the CRPD reflect so clearly. These being, the opportunity and right of each individual with a disability to fully participate in and contribute to the communities, nations, and world of which they are a part.

This means we must seek out and offer to help people in other countries who are attempting to make these principles a reality in their homelands. It is not enough for us to affirm, practice, and protect these principles in the U.S. We must lend a hand and learn from others in faraway lands.

As you celebrate the anniversary of the ADA today, consider others less fortunate in the U.S. and elsewhere who would benefit from what you have experienced and know. The U.S. international Council on Disabilities plans to launching an online Global Connector in 2018 and hope you will consider joining it.

Thank you.

Patricia Morrissey
President
USICD

This text originally appeared on the front page of USICD’s website at http://www.usicd.org, it has been moved here for archival purposes.

Why International Development Students Need to Take Disability Studies

August 3, 2017

By Adeline Joshua

Young woman smiles at camera

Adeline Joshua

When I was 10 years old, my mom and I spent one month in the Philippines to visit relatives. I remember this trip fondly because it was my first time out of the country, and my first time visiting a place so vastly different from the bustling streets of my hometown of New York City.

It was a tropical paradise filled with friendly people and delicious food, yet even at a young age, it was hard to ignore the financial and social inequality that existed around me. For people with disabilities (PWDs), living in the Philippines meant living with cultural stigmas and structural barriers that prevented many from reaching their full potential. The most memorable moments of my trip included interactions with other children with disabilities who were marginalized from society and unable to attend school.

I had the privilege of growing up with a physical disability in the United States after the Americans with Disabilities Act () was passed: I grew up with the concept of education and self-determination as a right ingrained in me. It was a humbling and profound experience to learn that everyone did not share access to the rights I took for granted, and this experience was what sparked my interest in studying international development.

The aim of international development is to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Approximately 15% of the world’s population lives with a disability, and 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries. Yet despite the statistics, very few universities offer classes that address disability and development. Based on conversations I have had with professors and peers, disability seems to be perceived as a specialization for “disability experts” to focus on. A lack of disability experts in academia meant that I had to piece together my disability education by absorbing what I could from independent study and brief discussions on disability in lectures.

It was not until this USICD internship program that I had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of disability and development. In the past 8 weeks, I attended presentations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and on disability and the Strategic Development Goals (SDGs). I participated in discussions debating the merits of disability-inclusive education vs. special education through my assignment at the World Bank, and acquired valuable insight into the needs of my fellow interns who represent a wide spectrum of disabilities.

Through this in-depth knowledge, it has become increasingly clear to me that disability studies should not be confined to people interested in disability as an area of focus. Anyone with a passion for helping others, alleviating poverty, or ending hunger needs to learn about how these issues affect PWDs. Disability is not a specialized topic, it is crosscutting: it affects every race, every nationality, every sexual orientation, and every issue in international development. Academia needs to move past viewing disability as being separate from other topics. It denies students—eager to make a difference in the world—the opportunity to gain a holistic understanding of the challenges people face. By undertaking this shift, I believe that development practice will follow suit, and perhaps one day, there will be many more PWDs able to partake in the same privileges that have allowed me to thrive.

Adeline Joshua is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF). Adeline Joshua is completing her internship at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) at the World Bank.  Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or IFC or World Bank.

First Time for Everything

August 1, 2017

By Anna Custis

Young women smiles at camera

Ann Custis

Being in USICD’s Youth in Foreign Affairs and International Development internship program gave me an opportunity to stay in the George Washington University Potomac House dorm, where I was assigned to be roommates with fellow cohort, Janelle Lyons!

      Keep in mind, that until June 2017, I had never had a roommate, not even in college.  I remember recalling all of my friends’ roommate horror stories, from possession of illegal substances, stealing food and more (one of my closest friends was punched).  From bathroom scheduling to lights out, I was worried I’d be stepping on some toes. Turns out, there was no need to worry at all! Janelle and I get along really well.  She’s like the cool older friend with lots of wisdom and advice to give you, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from her.

    Back when I was still in Orlando, my closest friends constantly told me to explore Washington D.C., make new friends and have some new experiences.  They told me to avoid being lonely. I honestly thought I would just stay in the dorm all the time, doing nothing on the weekends except for playing computer games. Well, sometimes I still do that.  Anyways, the more important thing to note here is that I actually made a friend! Our time together was short, but trying out new restaurants and visiting our favorite little yogurt shop was some of the best times I’ve had so far in Washington D.C.  I miss my friends in Orlando a lot, but Janelle helped lessen the pain of missing them.

            Pretty soon, our two month internships will be over and everyone will be going back to school or to new jobs. Janelle will be going back to Boston, and I’m still unsure on whether I will be remaining in Washington D.C. or moving to Chicago.  What I do know, however, is that I will miss the 2017 USICD cohort, and that I wish nothing but the best for all them from here on out.

Ann Custis is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from  the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation(MEAF). Ann Custis is completing her internship at Handicap International USA (HI USA)  . Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or HI USA.

From Inside the Classroom to Saving Lives

July 27, 2017

By Ryan O’Malley

Young man smiles at camera

Ryan O’Malley

Realizing the Importance of Health Care Management

For the last 16 years (and for the next 2) I have been a student. Many students graduate college and start to work. They quickly realize that everything they have learned in school is useless for their current profession. For me, I can safely say thus far it has not been that way. I just finished my undergraduate degree in health care management.  My internship is at Management Sciences for Health.  I think you can see the correlation yourself. My point is, I am fortunate that the USICD internship program has placed me at the real-world workplace version of my major.

Let me be honest with you, learning management in the classroom versus applying it in the work place is completely different.  Something that may seem entirely boring in the classroom all of a sudden is interesting in the workplace. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my major. But sometimes I sat there memorizing charts and wondered, am I really ever going to use this chart again?

Better management practices leads to better health outcomes. Anyone in health care will tell you that. The tricky part is how to achieve better management. For the sake of not boring you, I will not delve into the intricacies of management. Rather, I will discuss what I have learned about how management instruction from the Leadership Management and Governance project has impacted lives.  In Honduras, working together with the ministry of health, we have been able to better control the spread of HIV/AIDs. In Cote D’ Ivoire, MSH has brought better management techniques to help prepare clinics for another Ebola-like Epidemic.  These are just a couple of the impacts management technique has had on lives around the world.

That is why when it is a Friday afternoon and you are given an assignment to copy-edit a health care management instruction presentation that is 476 slides long, you are eager to do it. Because now I have seen the reports, the data, attended meetings and realized that maybe this little thing I am working on will help save lives in the future.

The reality of the situation in International Development is that it is a multi-faceted problem. Without infrastructure, institutes of education may not reach as many students or may not teach them as well. Without good quality education or fast, affordable, and reliable Internet access, the healthcare workforce may not be well educated or may have less access to information about good practices abroad. Without an educated healthcare workforce or access to information, chronic diseases go untreated and communicable diseases spread. The problems all run in a cycle. I may only be able to help with a small part of one problem in international development, but maybe the management knowledge I helped spread will be passed on for generations to come saving lives along the way.

Ryan O’Malley is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  he and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from  the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation(MEAF). Ryan O’Malley is completing his internship at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) . Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or MSH

Fears and Rewards

July 24, 2017

By Chuck Aoki

Young man smile at camera

Chuck Aoki

I’ll admit that I had a certain amount of apprehension before moving to Washington, D.C., for my internship with the National Democratic Institute (NDI) through the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program. The last time that I had moved completely across the country, on my own, I was 18, and had just graduated high school. To summarize that move succinctly, I’ll just say that I was a textbook example of a kid who was intellectually ready for the rigors of college, but not developmentally mature at all. That’s not to say I got into a massive amount of trouble or anything, but I was slightly overwhelmed by the prospect of living all by myself, with no one telling me when or where to be places.

Eight years later, I knew that I was much more mentally mature, and prepared for to move across the country again. I’ve been in graduate school for a year, and did reasonably well, plus I’ve traveled around the world and back for the last eight years. Moving across the country shouldn’t be a problem at all. Yet I still felt nervous as my plane began to land in D.C., despite all this. Nerves are a funny thing. I’ve played in front of massive crowds and spoken publicly in front of numerous groups of people without any apprehension. But this idea of moving across the country had me panicking ever so slightly.

The good news? My fears turned out to be completely misguided. Aside from forgetting to bring sheets, I managed to settle into my dorm nicely, and have been enjoying living in D.C. tremendously, aside from the occasional 3am fire alarm wakeup. And my work at NDI has been quite enjoyable, and I’ve been able to apply my skills that I’ve been learning in graduate school quite effectively to my work here. Using my skills to help further the inclusion of people with disabilities across the world has been a very rewarding experience, and I am so grateful for NDI and USICD for the chance to work in such a rewarding place.

Chuck Aoki is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  he and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from  the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation(MEAF). Chuck Aoki is completing his internship at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or NDI

Promoting Inclusive Spaces for STEM Fields and Agricultural Sciences

July 20, 2017

By Jenna Shelton

Woman with shoulder length hair and a dark suit jacket smiles at the camera

Jenna Shelton

The narrow rows and rocky terrain make it difficult for people with physical impairments to navigate.

An agricultural research space at UC Berkeley

This article was first published as a guest column in World Learning’s Transforming Agency Access and Power (TAAP) Tuesday newsletter on July 18, 2017. It is cross-posted here with the permission of author Jenna Shelton and of World Learning.

Although people with disabilities have the capability to be doctors, engineers, agriculturalists, and chemists, there are few people with disabilities in these science-heavy areas. The absence of disabled people in Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is a symptom of the all too frequent inaccessible experiential learning opportunities in STEM fields.  How do people with disabilities access and thrive in STEM opportunities if training and field spaces cannot provide inclusive accommodations? In Addressing the Inaccessibility of Research Spaces at UC Berkeley: Fostering Participation of People with Disabilities in STEM Fields, Jenna Shelton, a former student at UC Berkeley and a disability rights advocate, explores the lack of people with disabilities in science-based fields on UC Berkeley’s campus. She attributes the lack of people with disabilities to the exclusive built environment of science field spaces on college campuses as well as negative attitudes of disability within scientific fieldwork and practical sciences.

The project started when Jenna, then a junior at UC Berkeley studying agriculture and environmental sciences, could not find an inclusive accommodation for an agro-ecology course. Since she started gardening in a wheelchair at age six, she knew that inclusive accommodations in agricultural spaces were possible. After her request for inclusive accommodation received considerable pushback from the university, she led efforts to survey research spaces for accessibility with disabled student researchers. While the research team focused on surveying agricultural research spaces, the team also collected testimonials from students with disabilities who have faced barriers to accommodations in other STEM fields. With the information collected, Jenna wrote a policy analysis on why inaccessibility in STEM fields and agricultural sciences is a problem on UC Berkeley’s campus and how it can be addressed through a combination of universal design using environmental sustainability and training on inclusive accommodations for professors. Some recommendations include integrating raised garden beds and braille into the spaces, creating accessible pathways for cane and wheelchair users, and training professors on integrating inclusive accommodation in their work.

While this project was conducted on a very local scale, it can also be applied to global issues of accessibility in agriculture. Disability is not uncommon in agricultural work. Farmworkers who become disabled often face difficult decisions in how to provide for their families. Thus, implementation of inclusive accommodation in sustainable farming on a global scale can support the livelihoods of disabled farmers as well as environmental health. “Agricultural sciences within our global food system is a prime example of how people with disabilities have been excluded. People with disabilities are not seen as farmers. If farmers become disabled, they lose their livelihoods. It is time that we implement inclusive design and social structures that allow people with disabilities to access opportunities and participate in a global society,” says Shelton.

To learn more about Jenna Shelton’s work visit here.

Jenna Shelton is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  She and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from  the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation(MEAF). Jenna Shelton is completing her internship at International Medical CorpsRead the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, World Learning, or International Medical Corps.