Reflecting on ICI’s Global Impact and our Exciting Initiatives Ahead

Community Inclusion
6 min readFeb 1, 2024

As we welcome 2024 and embark on expanding ICI’s international work, we would like to take a moment to reflect on and celebrate the significant impact our staff have made on improving the lives of individuals with disabilities globally throughout 2023. This blog highlights not only past achievements but also provides a glimpse into exciting new initiatives and partnerships in 2024.

Reflections from 2023

Spring 2023

Empowering Voices: Women Leading Together in Solidarity and Storytelling

With funding support from the US Embassy Tokyo, the Women Leading Together: Solidarity in Storytelling Story Jam engaged 10 women from Japan and the United States in a 9-week program to explore experiences of marginalization and built community through digital storytelling. The program featured renown North American and Japanese experts in women’s rights, diversity and intersectionality, and LGBTQ+ activism as guest speakers. Story Jam culminated in the screening of participants’ 4-minute advocacy story videos at the final event on April 20 (US) / April 21 (Japan), 2023, with opening remarks by Grace Choi, Public Diplomacy Officer of the US Embassy Tokyo.

Read the blog to learn more about the program and the participants.

Watch and listen to Story Jam participants’ stories!

Dr. Laura Bozeman: Leading Global Vision Studies and Rehabilitation Expert

Dr. Laura Bozeman, Professor and Director of the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD) Vision Studies graduate program, recently participated in the oMERO project, which aims to establish professional standards for visual disabilities rehabilitators in the European Union. At the project’s final event in Genoa, Italy, Dr. Bozeman shared insights from global training initiatives, highlighting the importance of customizing professional development to individual and cultural needs.

In recognition of her exceptional international leadership in orientation and mobility (O&M), Dr. Bozeman was honored with the Suterko-Cory Award. This award positions her as global ambassador and role model for O&M specialists worldwide, recognizing her impact in the United States, Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Ireland. The award was presented at the 18th International Mobility Conference held May 22–26, 2023, in Warsaw, Poland.

Explore Dr. Bozeman’s impressive career and accomplishments.

Two white women standing in front of a seated audience, one presenting an award to the other. A grand piano is visible in the background
Dr. Laura Bozeman receiving the Suterko-Cory Award at the 18th International Mobility Conference held May 22–26, 2023, in Warsaw, Poland.

Summer 2023

David Hoff on the Employment First Movement at the 2nd World Supported Employment Conference

Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) Program Director David Hoff presented at the 2nd World Conference on Supported Employment in June 2023 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The conference gathered people from across the world working to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Hoff co-presented with Julie Christensen, the Executive Director of the Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE) on “The Employment First Movement: Where It Came From, Where It’s At, and Where It’s Going.” Employment First is a US national movement focusing on policies and practices that prioritize employment in the general workforce.

Fall 2023

TOMODACHI Story Jam: Empowering Cross-Cultural Youth Advocacy

TOMODACHI Story Jam, a digital storytelling and youth leadership program, brought together 10 Japanese and American youth with disabilities to share their experiences of overcoming challenges. Story Jam is part of the TOMODACHI Initiative — a collaboration between the US-Japan Council and the US Embassy Tokyo — implemented by ICI in partnership with StoryCenter Canada. Story Jam encourages cross-cultural exchange and empowers youth for positive advocacy.

In weekly sessions, participants crafted impactful 4-minute advocacy story videos, which were showcased at the final event on November 2 (US) / November 3 (Japan), 2023. Brandy Eber, Public Diplomacy Officer of the US Embassy Tokyo, highlighted the power of storytelling to bring together diverse perspectives in her remarks at the event.

Learn more about the TOMODACHI Story Jam program and our participants!

Watch and listen to Story Jam participants’ stories!

Screenshot of a Zoom window with four rows. Each row displays windows of five webinar attendees, except for the bottom row, which features three attendees’ windows.
Screenshot of a Zoom window showcasing TOMODACHI Story Jam storytellers during the Final Event on November 2 (US) / November 3 (Japan), 2023.

Advancing International Research: Dr. Amy Szarkowski’s Grant Application for Family-Centered Early Intervention in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children

Congratulations to Dr. Amy Szarkowski, Research Fellow and Training Director of ICI’s Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) Program, for her international efforts in supporting young children who are D/deaf and hard of hearing. Alongside Sheila Moodie (Western University in Canada) and Evelien Dirks (Dutch Foundation for the Deaf Child in the Netherlands), Dr. Szarkowski submitted a grant application to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, seeking funding for an international collaboration known as “Advance International Research in Family-Centered Early Intervention for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AIR FCEI-DHH).”

Learn more about Family-Centered Early Intervention in this article coauthored by Dirks and Szarkowski.

Dr. Kerim Munir: Recognized Globally for his Impact in Mental Health and Developmental Disability

Dr. Kerim Munir, the Director of Psychiatry at ICI’s LEND Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, was honored with the International Service Award from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD). The award was presented at AUCD’s annual national conference held November 5–8, 2023, in Washington, DC. The award acknowledges Dr. Munir for his outstanding achievements and global influence in mental health, intellectual and developmental disability, and autism.

Learn more about Dr. Munir’s impressive career and accomplishments!

Two white men shaking hands in front of a screen displaying the words “AUCD”; one of the men is holding an award.
Dr. Kerim Munir (right) receiving his award with Dr. David Helm (left) at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2023 national conference.

ICI Hosts Delegation from Japan Open University

Dr. Maria Paiewonsky, Program Director and Professional Development Coordinator for College-Based Transition Services, welcomed a delegation from the Open University of Japan, including Mr. Toshiya Naito (Administrator), Ms. Yoko Hirose (Professor), Mr. Keisuke Adachi (Contents Production Manager), and Mr. Shingo Nozawa (Student Affairs), on November 14–15, 2023. The purpose of their visit was to gain insights into best practices for the inclusion of students with intellectual disabilities in higher education as they work toward the development of relevant courses.

During their visit, the delegation toured Massasoit Community College and Mass College of Art and Design. They also engaged with staff and students from ThinkCollege and the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) Program at UMass Boston.

Looking Ahead to 2024

ICI Partners with the International Disability Alliance and the African Disability Forum on International Fellowship Program

ICI, in collaboration with the International Disability Alliance (IDA) and the African Disability Forum (ADF), proudly launches the third round of the Professional Program on Inclusive Civic Engagement, funded by the US Department of State for fiscal year 2023. We are thrilled to welcome 10 new East African Fellows from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia. They will travel to the US in May 2024 to participate in an intensive, 5-week Fellowship, fostering the exchange and implementation of best practices for inclusive civic engagement globally.

ADF, representing Disabled Persons’ Organizations in Africa, enhances this partnership, strengthening the consortium with ICI, Humanity & Inclusion, and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) network members.

Learn more about the Professional Fellows Program and partnerships!

Professional Fellows Program (PFP) Alumni Panel Featured at Upcoming African American Conference on Disabilities in Arizona

On February 15, a panel of PFP alumni will present on challenges, opportunities, and the role of international exchange in advancing disability rights across Africa. The panelists will discuss the experiences of disability in their home countries, examine the African Disability Protocol, and assess the impact of cross-cultural exchange on disability rights. Together, the panel will explore the challenges and opportunities in advancing disability rights in Africa, highlighting the crucial role of international cooperation in fostering inclusivity.

Learn more about the 2024 African American Conference on Disabilities.

Dr. Amy Szarkowski to Deliver Keynote at 2024 Family-Centered Early Intervention International Congress

ICI’s Dr. Amy Szarkowski is a key member of the International Advisory Committee for Family-Centered Early Intervention (FCEI) International. Renowned for offering advanced interdisciplinary training, Dr. Szarkowski will deliver the keynote address at the 6th Annual 2024 FCEI International Conference in Bad Ischl, Austria on May 15–17. The event focuses on advancing positive outcomes for children who are D/deaf or hard of hearing.

Learn more about FCEI International and the upcoming event!

Sign up for the ICI Newsletter to learn more about our international work as well as the work we do locally and across the US.

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Community Inclusion

The Institute for Community Inclusion (ICI) promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in school, work, health care and community activities.