Supporting people with disabilities in the U.S. and the Russian Federation: A roundtable from the Eurasia Foundation

We’ve all heard the phrase “great minds think alike,” but this morning’s disability initiatives roundtable sponsored by the Eurasia Foundation’s U.S.-Russia Social Expertise Exchange really blew my mind. I was honored to participate in this roundtable, which was designed to connect Russians and Americans interested in a range of projects relating to supporting and empowering people with disabilities in both countries.

I joined the roundtable looking for a private university to join together with for a student and faculty exchange and found a likely partner in the Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, taking me a few steps further towards my dream of running such a trip for my students!

I was also fortunate to meet several new colleagues who I’d like my exchange students to visit in Moscow – most notably my new colleague Masha Gendeleva (pictured above) of the disability rights organization Perspektiva. Masha specializes in universal design and youth leadership. This amazing group promotes independence and an improved quality of life for people with disabilities. I am hoping to partner with Masha and Perspektiva’s director, Denise Roza, to develop disability awareness trainings for social workers and NGO child welfare workers in Russia – and to bring some of that knowledge back to me for my work with child welfare workers in the U.S.

Another new colleague who shares a common vision was Vera Shamaeva, chairman of the Commission for Youth Activity at the All-Russia Society for the Deaf. Vera’s work includes running a leadership program for Deaf youth and we are interested in talking about how to train young people to advocate for change with their government officials, something I do with my graduate social work students every year.

I left this event exhausted but thrilled to have a head full of new ideas to work into an upcoming grant application!