December 21, 2011
Over the past 30 years, we have created spaces that bridge communities and encourage new conversations. In some cases, these turn into on-going collaborations with real results – ideas spark, new organizations begin, projects start, and friendships are formed.
There’s not a lot of glory in the behind-the-scenes work to plan these gatherings – it involves a lot of details to make sure people know about it and to plan for an international event that is accessible to people with all types of disabilities and languages. We trust that positive synergy will emerge between people, and from the feedback we get, deeper connections do happen.
This occurred recently with our first virtual gathering “International Disability Connect” on December 1, 2011, celebrating the UN International Day of Disabled Persons and MIUSA’s 30th Anniversary. Our staff came together for this around-the-clock, 24-hour online event, and became energized as we observed the free-flowing discussions generated among some of the 300 people who joined across continents. Topics ranged from:
- Accessibility and inclusive education in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, India, Japan, and Turkey.
- Funding opportunities to study in the United States, including alumni with disabilities sharing about Rotary and Fulbright awards, and how to find scholarships through EducationUSA.
- Finding volunteering opportunities in the United States and abroad, and how to fund it or plan your own experience.
- Advice on traveling with a mobility disability in places such as Tanzania or Taiwan, and work on accessibility in recreation and study abroad programs.
- Connections between Deaf exchange participants and local Deaf communities from Africa to Asia to South America.
- Successful actions by women with disabilities in Armenia, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Nigeria, and South Africa.
- Active discussions and resource sharing on parenting and reproductive rights among women with disabilities.
So who was involved? Well, about 83% of the participants work, volunteer, or are a member of a disability organization and almost half were MIUSA alumni. The majority (75%) were from countries far and wide, outside the United States. As one participant summed it up, “It was very interesting to hear what people around the world had to say on matters, and uplifting to see that there are many people in many places who are doing a lot of good in terms of inclusion and accessibility.”
So, what creative spaces and groups of people have you convened? How do you share information and learn from others around the world?