Russian Visitors and ICI Share Insights on Including Youth with Disabilities

Tue Jan 15 2019
Russian partners Vera Bitova from Ordinary Childhood, Alena Legostaeva from Life Route, and parent advocate Anna Markevich visit Dependable in St. Paul as part of the ICI collaborative project known as Community Participation and Employment as Strategies.

ICI hosted three visitors from Russia this month who were partnering with the Institute’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education (GRC) to share knowledge and expertise on inclusion and community living practices for youth and young adults with disabilities in the U.S. and the Russian Federation. From January 5–13, 2019, professionals from Ordinary Childhood (Vera Bitova, pictured third from left) and Life Route (Alena Legostaeva, fourth from left) and a parent advocate from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk (Anna Markevich, second from right) spent nine days in Minnesota with the GRC’s Renáta Tichá and Brian Abery, visiting community-based organizations working toward the inclusion of youth and adults with disabilities. Ordinary Childhood and Life Route in Moscow are collaborating with GRC on a one-year project entitled Community Participation and Employment as Strategies for Social Inclusion: A U.S.-Russia Dialogue, which is part of the U.S.-Russia Social Expertise Exchange program funded by a $29,000 grant from the Eurasia Foundation.

The organizations they visited in January included PACER Center, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), The Arc Minnesota, Focus Beyond, Dependable (pictured), and Outcomes Inc. In addition, Russian participants presented information regarding their support systems and work in Russia to staff from MDE and ICI. The U.S.-Russian team was able to make meaningful comparisons between the two countries with respect to service provision, societal attitudes towards persons with disabilities, policy/legislation, and parental initiatives that led to the planning of future activities and changes that both teams will implement in their work.

“International collaborations such as this provide professionals with opportunities to expand their perspectives about disability, support services, and the critical role that the environmental context plays in facilitating the quality-of-life for people with disabilities,” states Tichá. Abery agrees, adding, “Crossing national and cultural boundaries assists not only professionals but parents and persons with disabilities alike to develop new ideas, adapt practices observed in one culture to others, and better use available resources to support persons with disabilities leading self-determined lives in the communities of their choice.”