FYI, the Institute on Community Integration Staff Newsletter

February 2014

Going Global… Again!: ICI in India

India and the Institute on Community Integration (ICI) may seem worlds apart, but they are united in their desire to improve supports for children, youth, and adults with disabilities, and are working together on two new projects to achieve that goal.

The Institute’s Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá are collaborating with educators in India and Minnesota on a three-year, $250,000 project titled, “A Sustainable ‘Response to Intervention’ Model for Successful Inclusion of Students with Disabilities: An India-U.S. Partnership.” Funded by the United States-India Foundation through the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, the project brings together ICI, Avinashilingam University and the Coimbatore school district in Tamil Nadu, India, and the Hiawatha Valley Education District in southeastern Minnesota. It aims to foster university-, district-, and school-level partnerships between India and the U.S., using the Response to Intervention (RTI) education framework. RTI is a model for a school-wide process that helps teachers ensure that all their students, including students with disabilities, are making adequate academic progress. In this project, Brian and Renáta will travel to India to work with the schools in the Coimbatore district and faculty from Avinashilingam University on delivering training, technical assistance, and mentoring for their faculty in effective implementation of RTI and its impact on successful inclusion of students with disabilities. Indian faculty will come to Minnesota to see how Minnesota schools have adapted RTI to their needs. And, the collaborating Coimbatore schools will serve as model demonstration sites for other schools in Tamil Nadu, building local capacity and allowing for potential scale-up. “This project is a wonderful opportunity to learn how educational concepts can work across continents, while enriching the work and educational cultures of faculty and staff in both India and the U.S. by learning about effective practices in the two countries,” says Renáta.

The other new Institute project, “The Role of Civil Society in the Construction of Disability Identities in India,” is directed by Christopher Johnstone of ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education, and Misa Kayama of the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Funded by a one-year, $52,000, Global Spotlight Major Research Grant awarded by the University of Minnesota, they will collaborate with Professor Sandhya Limaye of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences to examine the intersection of disability identity and civil society disability messaging in Mumbai, India. This research aims to understand the role of civil society organizations – meaning non-governmental organizations – in identity formation among persons with disabilities. “U.S. literature shows a taxonomy of identities associated with disability, ranging from resignation to activism, but only my colleague, Sandhya Limaye, has conducted similar research in India,” says Christopher. “Through this project we hope to better understand the role of Indian organizations in promoting disability-positive and rights-driven identities.” They will start developing the research instrument this spring, then Misa and Christopher will travel to India in the summer to collect data, and Professor Limaye will come to Minnesota in the fall of 2014 to collaborate on the data analysis.

FFI on these projects, contact Renáta at or 612-624-5776, or Christopher at or 612-625-2505.