2020 marks 30 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This landmark legislation prohibits discrimination based on disability and increases the opportunities and access for persons with disabilities. The law was written and passed to ensure that persons with disabilities have the same rights as other Americans. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, on Wednesday, May 27 at 12pm ET, the YES program is hosting a webinar on disability rights and advocacy in the U.S. The webinar will also look at some innovative YES alumni projects that are disability-centered projects and share steps for alumni to plan and implement inclusivity and disability-centered projects.
Live captioning and ASL interpreters are available at the webinar.
Johileny Merán is a Program Coordinator at Mobility International USA with the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, working to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange. As an intern with the American Association for People with Disabilities (AAPD), Johileny worked at the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), promoting inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency response and preparedness. A Dominican immigrant and native Spanish speaker, Johileny has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Global Public Health with a minor in Disability Studies from New York University (NYU), having been motivated to pursue an international disability rights career after experiencing “accessibility shock” during a visit to her home country. She studied abroad at NYU London, England as a Global Equity Fellow, where she was tasked with improving resources for diversity, equity and inclusion. See more: https://www.miusa.org/staff
Safira Bibi (YES 2012-13, Pakistan, hosted by ASSE in Louisville, KY) is a YES alumna and was the first blind student from Pakistan to go to the U.S. through the Youth Exchange and Study program. Safira’s experience in America was a defining moment of her life. She explains that she had never practiced her autonomy and never experienced freedom in Pakistan. In America, she was able to do laundry, travel on her own, and manage her budget. When Safira returned back to Pakistan, she realized that her country lacks opportunities for students with visual impairments, and the responsibility of advocating for the opportunities for visual impaired students lies on the shoulders of those who have had the privilege/opportunity to educate themselves. It was then that Safira began conducting workshops and camps for visually impaired youth on mobility and life skills. Today, Safira works with multiple NGOs and private institutions to work on advocacy and outreach components of projects particularly dealing with youth with visual impairments. She also conducts sessions to inspire and motivate youth to struggle to achieve their goals.
In Safira’s own words, “How can I expect people to accept my disability unless I fully embrace it and make it my strength!”