The World Workplaces Become More Inclusive of Deaf Workers

From left: Dr. Audrey Cooper, IDMA program director; Irina Stavenscaia, head of UNDP engagement unit, integrated talent management; Maria Teresa Lago Lao, UNDP project implementation support analyst, inclusion of persons with disabilities in the UNDP workplace; Jarvis Grindstaff and Sonia Holzman, UNDP interns; and Maegan Shanks, IDMA adjunct faculty and program assistant. Photo courtesy of Audrey Cooper.

During the 2018 summer, Sonia Holzman and Jarvis Grindstaff, ’14, became the third and fourth Gallaudet M.A. in International Development (IDMA) students to garner an internship with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This brought both to the New York City headquarters to work with their Diversity and Inclusion units, and conduct research and planning to support the 11th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, held June 12-14.

Holzman and Grindstaff’s participation with UNDP follows that of Sandra Lopez, G-’17, who interned from February to June 2017 in New York City, and Yvonne Kato, G-’18, who interned at UNDP’s Bangkok, Thailand Regional Hub from February to May 2018.

This partnership between UNDP and Gallaudet resulted from a UNDP 2016 study, which determined that with their internal policies and working environment, increasing the talent pool of deaf people and those with disabilities throughout the world was of high priority. Since 2016, UNDP’s Integrated Talent Management Unit has worked with Dr. Audrey Cooper, IDMA assistant professor and program director, to promote internship and professional opportunities.

“Engaging with UNDP partners has been extremely illuminating and productive,” said Cooper. “They champion talent from the perspective of diverse life experiences, skill sets, and multilingualism. Bringing student interns on board, they not only showed enthusiasm for incorporating ASL, and innovative information and communication technologies into daily workplace operations, but sought Gallaudet University feedback on ways to enhance deaf intern and employee recruitment, retention, and advancement.”

Cooper added that with more than 170 country offices around the world, UNDP seeks to inform global professional preparation and hiring of deaf people, and increase its impact by incorporating more signed languages.

IDMA focuses greatly on providing its graduate students with internships at leading international non-governmental organizations, federal agencies, non-profits, and multilateral organizations such as the U.N. Within their first year of coursework, students identify specific sector specialties. IDMA works with them to apply with partner organizations or create new relationships with organizations that will provide relevant experiences.

Within their internships, graduate students practice applying methods and strategies of deaf-led national and international development, emphasizing innovative institutional structures, project design, and policy and advocacy mechanisms by which deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing people can advance their linguistic, social, political, economic, and other interests.

During her internship, Lopez presented Myth Buster: People with Disabilities at UNDP’s Bureau of Policy and Programme Support on May 24, 2017. She also attended the 10th session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and hosted a UNDP Brown Bag, as did Holzman and Grindstaff during their internships.

While in Bangkok, Kato valued her internship with UNDP.

“UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub (BRH) is an awesome and prestigious organization to intern with,” said Kato. “Being here, I was able to gain a better understanding of how they carry out their purpose, and how policies and projects are implemented. Working with such a diverse group of people from various countries all around the world was enlightening, and I loved sharing and introducing Gallaudet University to each person I met.”

In the fall of 2017, IDMA implemented a revised curriculum, updating course offerings to emphasize critical postcolonial examination of factors contributing to global social inequalities; advance deaf, deaf-blind, and hard of hearing centered research, leadership, and collaboration; and to explicitly teach how understanding intersectionality and implicit bias is significant for shaping professional practices as allies to communities and issues with which students may not be directly involved.

“This is especially important for the international development field at this time, where there is growing recognition of barriers to entry, and growing recognition that representation by all society members is desperately needed to promote the vast diversity of lifeways and livelihoods, and indeed, the health of the planet,” said Cooper.

Organizations that IDMA partners with on professional practicum and internship placements include:

  • Amnesty International
  • Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability
  • CBM International
  • Chemonics
  • International Foundation for Electoral Systems
  • InterAction
  • Kaizen Company
  • Mobility International USA
  • PeacePlayers International
  • Association of the Deaf
  • Tochigi Prefectural Association of the Deaf
  • United Nations Development Programme
  • U.S. Agency for International Development
  • U.S. National Association of the Deaf
  • U.S. National Council on Disability
  • United States International Council on Disabilities
  • U.S. State Department
  • >World Concern Development Organization
  • World Learning
  • World Vision<

New partnerships currently underway for 2018-19 include: Discovering Deaf Worlds, HIPS (Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive), Inter-American Development Bank, Organization of American States, and the World Bank.

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