The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is proud to champion inclusivity with its comprehensive programs. With alumni who are members of the disability community, the impact of their efforts goes beyond their time participating in their exchange programs. ECA applauds the efforts of program alumni, and their community efforts are especially appreciated amidst a time of unprecedented crisis in the United States and abroad.
During the summer of 2020, ECA spotlighted three International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumni who are positively shaping their communities as disability rights’ advocates. Timed to coincide with the ADA 30th anniversary, these three alumni “returned” to the United States to connect with their U.S. counterparts as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Star programs. Each 2020 Gold Star participated in an individual virtual IVLP with several components, including a public online presentation as well as professional meetings, home hospitality, and cultural activities.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers all spheres of public life including: education, culture, employment, transportation, and other spaces where public access is present. The Gold Star program recognizes outstanding alumni who returned home and used their IVLP experience to impact their communities. It also highlights the local American communities that organized their program as part of the Global Ties U.S. network. The program has recognized over 50 alumni in the past 10 years.
Below are the three 2020 participants’ presentations, shared with audiences across the United States through IVLP’s partner network.
WorldOregon: Watch Video
2017 IVLP alumnus Fadi El Halabi is the Executive Director of the Ecumenical Disability Advocates Network in Beirut, Lebanon. He is also a psychologist and TV commentator and works on projects related to inclusive education and urban design. In 2019, Mr. El Halabi took the lead on a national advocacy campaign with a collective of 70 NGOs and academic partners to push for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon. He shared his insights into disability rights and resiliency in Lebanon through a presentation with WorldOregon, which hosted him in Portland during his original IVLP program.
Northern Nevada International Center: Watch Video
2017 IVLP alumnus David Anyaele is an entrepreneur, speaker, advocate and Executive Director of the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities in Lagos, Nigeria. Through his presentation Mr. Anyaele spoke with partners in Reno, Nevada about the challenges of implementing the 2019 disability rights law in Nigeria, which he and other activists successfully championed over several years.
Graduate School USA and the Harkin Institute: Watch Video
Finally, 2014 IVLP alumnus Arman Ali is the Executive Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment in New Delhi, India as well as a pioneer activist for the rights of persons with disabilities in India. In collaboration with the Harkin Institute in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Ali shared advocacy strategies for integrating opportunities for employment and education, as well as the legal rights and accessibility challenges that relate to persons with disabilities.
ECA plans to organize three more virtual ADA Gold Star alumni programs by the end of 2020. Follow updates on the ADA 30th anniversary on social media using #ADA30 and #AccessforAll, and follow IVLP updates on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @StateIVLP.