Expanding Partnerships for People with Disabilities

Published May 8, 2017

New York – Eurasia Foundation’s US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange launched its newest initiative, the Disabilities Partnership Platform (DPP), at a groundbreaking roundtable on March 4, 2017 at Manhattan’s Hunter College in New York.

Interacting at the lively roundtable were twenty representatives from US and Russian institutions of higher education, NGOs, and the entertainment industry. Researchers and practitioners alike generated a flurry of collaborative project ideas in English, Russian, American Sign Language, Russian Sign Language, and International Sign Language.

SEE has been supporting disability-related partnerships between the two countries in multiple areas, including tech-based learning and assessment, inclusive education, joint film-making, full accessibility of media to people with disabilities (PwDs), film festival collaboration, and the portrayal of PwDs on the screen.

Through DPP, SEE aims to leverage the expertise, accomplishments, and innovation of its partners across borders to extend their reach beyond traditional partnerships and advance the interests and rights of PwDs.

SEE will soon include joint summer camps, sports and student media competitions to its roster of disability partnership spheres between the two countries.

The Hunter roundtable coincided with the opening week in New York City of ReelAbilities. Through the DPP, ReelAbilities is participating in a SEE-facilitated disabilities film festival partnership with Russia’s Breaking Down Barriers festival. Through panel discussions, master classes and workshops by industry professionals, the two festivals will provide tips on how to portray and celebrate inclusivity and diversity in film. Conducted respectively by the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan and Moscow-based NGO Perspektiva, the festivals offer a unique bilateral opportunity to raise the standard for the authentic portrayal and greater inclusion of people with disabilities in film and media.

At the Hunter roundtable, the energy in the room demonstrated that SEE’s dedicated partners are keen to branch out without concern for barriers or limitations, reflecting their respective missions to build an inclusive and accessible world for people with disabilities.

Through DPP, EF strives to bolster US, Russian, and other partners in their efforts to make inclusivity and accessibility for PwDs a given in educational institutions, media spheres, physical spaces, and professional environments.

Perspektiva Regional Public Organization of Disabilities

Since 1997, the Moscow-based NGO Perspektiva has worked to promote independence and to improve quality of life for people with disabilities. Perspektiva works to build the capacities of grassroots disability organizations, while also assisting people with disabilities and their families to acquire new skills and knowledge and gain equal access to inclusive education and employment. Perspektiva organizes the Breaking Down Barriers film festival in Moscow, along with numerous affiliated “echo” film festivals across Russia. Through the DPP, Perspektiva is collaborating with the ReelAbilities disabilities film festival.

Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University

Hosted by San Francisco State University, the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability works to challenge prevailing notions and stereotypes of disability by showcasing the strength, ingenuity, and originality of people with disabilities. This work includes hosting public educational and cultural events aimed at increasing visibility for people with disabilities. Some of Institutes’ major partnerships include the Superfest Film Festival, which is co-sponsored by the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Other major events hosted by the Paul K. Longmore Institute include Patient No More, a travelling exhibit focused on the history of the disability rights movement.

Gallaudet University

Founded in Washington, DC in 1864, Gallaudet University was chartered primarily to serve Deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Gallaudet currently serves a student body of over 2,000 students and offers the world’s only PhD program in American Sign Language. In addition to its extensive undergraduate and graduate programs, Gallaudet also hosts the Gallaudet Research Institute, which conducts research on a wide range of issues which affect Deaf and hard-of-hearing people. Gallaudet University’s Visual Language and Visual Learning Center (VL2) provided much of the technological groundwork used in the Russian-American Project for Children’s Literacy, a SEE-funded project incorporated into the DPP.

University of Minnesota

As part of Eurasia Foundation’s University Partnership Program, The University of Minnesota recently undertook the Assessments of Students with Significant Disabilities / Оценки студентов со значительным ограниченными in conjunction with Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University. This project was aimed at developing tablet-based apps for assisting individuals with severe developmental disabilities.

Institute of Community Integration at the University of Minnesota

Established in 1985 on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota, The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) works to ensure that all individuals with disabilities are able to integrate into communities of their choice. The Institute is home to 74 projects and 5 affiliated centers addressing a variety of disability related issues.

Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education at the University of Minnesota

The Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education (GRC) at the University of Minnesota works to aid NGOs, international development organizations and national education agencies in improving education programs, practices and policies concerning children and youth with disabilities.

Yang-Tan Institute on Employment and Disability at Cornell University

The Yang Tan Institute (YTI) at Cornell University works to improve the quality of life for individuals with disabilities in all spheres of life, including work, income, health, education and social engagement. This work encompasses research initiatives, consultation services for other organizations and direct partnership with NGOs. The Yan Tan Institute also provides online learning courses for professionals who work in the field of disabilities, as part of its YTI Online program.

All-Russia Society for the Deaf

The All–Russia Society for the Deaf (VOG/ВОГ) is a national advocacy organization for deaf and hard-of-hearing Russians. It is Russia’s largest and oldest non-profit organization serving the Deaf community. The organization also works to protect the rights of people with hearing loss and support their rehabilitation and integration into society.

Achilles International

Achilles International, based in New York, seeks to enable individuals with disabilities improve their health and well-being by competing in a wide range of running events. Specialized programs include the Achilles Freedom Team for wounded military personnel and veterans, Achilles Kids for children with disabilities, the Achilles Para-triathlon Team, and the Hope & Possibility races, which are supported by various Achilles International chapters.

The Walt Disney Company, CIS

The Walt Disney Company, CIS offers Disney and Disney-affiliated programming across Russia and the rest of the CIS region. The company’s business includes Disney Internet Group, Disney Interactive Studios, Jetix Licensing, and Jetix Broadcasting. The company also offers toys, food, stationary, and other products. The company was founded in 2006 and has headquarters in Moscow, Russia. The Walt Disney Company CIS operates as a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.