USIA Exchange Programs: for and about People with Disabilities

(The following is adapted from an article written by David Levin, chair of the E Bureau's Diversity Working Group, for A World Awaits You, a publication of Mobility International USA)

Dr. Margaret Snyder, Visiting Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, spent six months at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Dr. Snyder, who is hearing impaired, taught courses on women and development as a Fulbright lecturer.

Special education teachers Crissa Nelson, from Vista High School in Vista, CA, and Carola Conlan, from Stiring High School in Stiring, Scotland, exchanged teaching assignments for the 1995-1996 academic year under the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program.

Under a grant provided by the USIA, the Massachusetts chapter of Very Special Arts hosted an international wheelchair dance festival in June, 1997. Dancers from ten countries helped draw attention to both the artistic and therapeutic value of their efforts.

University of New Mexico graduate student Cindy McHone, who has dyslexia, conducted Fulbright-sponsored research in landscape architecture at the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology in Cumbria, England.

In 1996, Mr. Samuel Kabue, from Kenya, spent a month in the United States as a USIA International Visitor. He consulted with governmental and non-governmental agencies and organizations across the country concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kabue, who is blind, directs the Program for People with Handicaps at the National Council of Churches in his home country.

Through USIA's Future Leaders Exchange Program, sixteen disabled high school students from the New Independent States (countries within the former Soviet Union), spent this past year attending high schools throughout the US and living with host families.

Ms. Aurora Estrella, a Hubert Humphrey Fellow from the Philippines, studied public administration at the University of Texas-Austin. She has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. As part of her Fellow objectives, Estrella also completed internships with the Texas Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities and with the World Institute on Disability, based in California. At home, she is the president of the National Federation of People with Disabilities.

Five administrators from Oaxaca, Mexico, three of whom had disabilities, spent ten days in the US under the International Visitor Program. Through the program, they visited facilities in Arizona and California. The administrators investigated access to government services by people with disabilities as well as culturally sensitive rehabilitation techniques.

Under Fulbright sponsorship, Ms. Saloua Ben Zahra completed a master's degree in contemporary American literature at the University of Minnesota. Ben Zahra is from Tunisia and is hearing impaired.

Ms. Wafa Darwish, Professor of English Language and Literature at Berzeit University in the West Bank, participated in a 1998 Bureau-sponsored Winter Institute for the Study of the United States at the University of Deleware. Ms. Darwish, who is blind, who has developed and maintains strong ties in both Israel and the West Bank, is completing her Ph.D at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

From Japan, Dr.Noriaki Azuma conducted Fulbright-sponsored research on health education for mentally retarded children during the fall of 1997 in the Department of Public Education in the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Maryland and in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa. Dr. Azuma is Associate Professor, Department of Health Sciences, Divison of Special Education, Faculty of Education, Iwate University, in Morioka, Iwate, Japan.

These are several examples of the dozens of grantees with disabilities and disability-related projects that the USIA's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sponsors each year.

The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is committed to increasing minority participation in its programs and activities. This includes women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans and people with disabilities. This is an objective of our office in Washington, D.C., of the United States Information Service offices overseas, and of the hundreds of non-governmental institutions and organizations with whom we work in the US and abroad.

The cornerstone of the E Bureau's effort to increase participation of people with disabilities in international exchange is the Bureau's sponsorship of the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange. The Clearinghouse, which can be accessed at, or by e-mail at, has two overarching functions: 1) to educate people with disabilities about exchange opportunities, and 2) to provide guidance and technical assistance to international exchange organizations that are working to include people with disabilities in their programs. The Clearinghouse enables USIA to serve as a catalyst, bringing public and private sectors together as well as promoting interaction and collaboration between the exchange community and the disability community.

Return to:The Civil Rights Connection