Walking the Walk
By Maegan Shanks
Maegan Shanks is one of eight participants in the 2014 Youth in International Development and Affairs (YIDA) internship program. She and other YIDA interns will be writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with the YIDA program this summer, to be posted at this blog. USICD coordinates the YIDA 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. Maegan Shanks is completing her internship at World Learning. Learn more about the YIDA internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257. Read Maegan Shanks’ biography, and the biography of other YIDA interns in the summer 2014 program, at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=269. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.
More than halfway through my internship, I feel more confident in the future of persons with disabilities around the world. My experience with World Learning and USICD has encouraged me to continue to advocate for disability rights so that people with disabilities will finally have access to rights and privileges deserved. There is still work to be done especially with educating inclusion and diversity but we are heading in the right direction. Organizations like USICD gives me hope that the cultural and attitudinal barriers can be broken to advance the inclusion of the PWDs.
I am touched by the commitment that World Learning has to the inclusion of marginalized populations. World Learning has been making a conscious choice to involve people from diverse communities and backgrounds in the workplace and in its programs. Since I started at World Learning this summer, I could see that the organization was ready to expand disability inclusion in the focus areas of education, development, and exchange. During my time there, I’ve been working with World Learning to develop capacity surveys on disability inclusion, write blogs about the importance of inclusion, and support the development of a new resource database from which World Learning and other organizations can gather and share resources on inclusion. I’ve learned so much from being in a workplace that engages me in International Visitor Leadership Program events, requests my involvement in staff events, and invites my suggestions on inclusion methods and resources. I am optimistic that this is the tip of the iceberg. Change starts with us, the willingness of each individual with or without disabilities to understand the values of each individual. For many years, the global society have been talking the talk and planning the plan, but now with one step at a time, we are walking the walk.
“Talking the talk of inclusion is good, but if we don’t also walk the walk, our great intentions are for naught.”
Lisa Friedman, Education Co-Director, Temple Beth-El