On October 1, the College’s Institute on Community Integration (ICI) received a one-year, $100,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to create virtual and in-person platforms for dialogues between professionals and parents who support young Russians and Americans with disabilities. The goal is to develop opportunities and strategies for inclusive community living and employment (independent or semi-independent housing and community participation) for young adults with disabilities in both countries. Specifically, the grant will support 16- to 21-year-olds in the Twin Cities and in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk. Known as the U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer Project: Developing Systems to Support the Employment and Community Inclusion of Young Adults with Disabilities, the collaboration will include electronic exchanges on inclusive community living and employment. There will be dual person-to-person exchanges between Russia and the U.S. (including conferences in each country) and dialogues about how culture affects community inclusion in both countries. The exchanges will feature seven adults in each country, including professionals, family members, and at least one person with a disability representing each country. The project will form learning communities to serve as resources for successful transition approaches and strategies, author a guide outlining key practical steps for inclusive employment and community living, and create online modules in these areas available in both countries.
The Russian collaborator on the project is the Social Innovation Fund in Krasnoyarsk. Project director Renáta Tichá and colleague Brian Abery (pictured together in Moscow in 2015) have worked on various projects with people in Krasnoyarsk, including staff from Krasnoyarsk State Pedagogical University, and look forward to expanding those relationships. “This project is an important continuation of our work with professionals in Krasnoyarsk who support children and youth with disabilities. This new opportunity provides a venue for collaboration with our colleagues on transition issues for young adults with disabilities from school to community,” says Tichá. U.S.–Russia Peer-to-Peer is a project of ICI’s Global Resource Center for Inclusive Education, of which Tichá is also director.