ICI & HHH host Americans w/ Disabilities Fellows from Armenia, India, Kazakhstan, & Ukraine

UMN's ICI and Humphrey School welcomed 20 ADA Fellows to the campus this past weekend. Fellows will be in Minnesota for five weeks before joining another eight ADA Fellows (just arrived at partner school Arizona State University) in Washington DC.  Information about the project and teh Fellows follows.

The ICI team and project heads are Brian Abery and Renáta Tichá. Merrie Benasutti, June Nkwenge, Sherry Gray and Nkayo Drepaul of the Humphrey School and Christopher Johnstone of the College of Education and Human Development round out the project team.  Many staff members and students at the ICI, CEHD, and the HHH are contributing to the project implementation.

Seal of the Department of State of the United States of America.Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Anniversary Inclusive Education Fellowship Program http://globalinclusion.org/projects.htm

The ADA Anniversary Fellowship Program in Inclusive Education will enable 28 participants from Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, and India to participate in a six-week intensive fellowship program at a wide variety of organizations in Minnesota or Arizona that support the educational inclusion of children with disabilities. The program, sponsored by the United States Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is administered by the University of Minnesota (Institute for Community Education or ICI and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs or HHH) and Arizona State University in collaboration with international partners including Nazarbayev University & Bilim Central Asia Education Center in Kazakhstan; Armenian State Pedagogical University in Armenia; National Precarpathian University and the Odessa Development Fund in Ukraine; and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in India. 

Truly inclusive education means that all children, including those with disabilities, are educated with their peers without disabilities in general education classrooms in their local schools. It involves more than such children being physically present and includes their active participation in all aspects of classroom life.      

Over the course of their stay in the United States, ADA Anniversary Fellows will work and form connections with mentors from host organizations whose work focuses on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in varied settings. Participants will learn about the work of their mentors as well as contribute to an inclusion-based project being implemented within the organization. Based on their experiences in Minnesota or Arizona and the inclusive education needs in their countries, fellows with develop both a concept and action plan for an Inclusive Education Grand Challenge Project that will be implemented in their home country upon return. These projects will be implemented by fellows from each country as part of a team that includes partner organizations in the country as well as Minnesota or Arizona mentors.

For additional information, please contact: Brian Abery (abery001@umn.edu) or Renáta Tichá (tich0018@umn.edu) at the University of Minnesota.

 About the Fellows

Armine Babayan Armine Babayan has been working as a special educator with children with special needs in basic school in Armenia for the past ten years. In this role, she assesses children with special needs, develops individual educational plans, conducts personal and group trainings with children with special needs, and provides consultations and methodological assistance to school teachers and parents. Armine hopes the ADA program will help to enhance her knowledge about new methods of work with children with special needs, assessments for children with special needs in inclusive schools, and training for schools to integrate children with special needs in society. After the completion of the program, Armine would like to share the best practices in working with children with special needs with her colleagues and apply the skills and knowledge in daily work.

Marine Babayan Marine Babayan has been the Head Psychologist in ArBes Healthcare Center in Yerevan, Armenia since 2006. Her responsibilities include the assessment of children with special needs; consultation, teaching and training of the families of children with special needs; and consultation of other specialists who work with children with special needs. Marine hopes the ADA program will help her to enhance her knowledge about new approaches and methods in the field of inclusive education.

Mher Davtyan Mher Davtyan has been working as an English Instructor and a coordinator at the American University of Armenia for 2 years. Mher volunteered to start a communication English club in the organization “Equal rights Equal Opportunities,” which supports the professional development of disabled people in Armenia. Mher also volunteered to teach English to a group of immigrant women from Syria and Iran to support their inclusion in society. Mher hopes the ADA program will help him to learn about effective instructional strategies to support disabled or marginalized students, needs assessment for disabled students to develop personal learning plans, and strategies to develop support system in inclusive classrooms.

Varduhi Ghazaryan Varduhi Ghazaryan has been an English Teacher in Kapan School in Armenia since 1998. Varduhi has also been working with Peace Corps Armenia Volunteers as an English language teaching counterpart for the past 15 years. Varduhi hopes the ADA program will help him to gain practical knowledge about how to teach students with disabilities, develop individual teaching plans for students with disabilities, and improve the quality of inclusive education, as well as the roles of teachers, students, and parents in this process.

Lilit Karapetyan Lilit Karapetyan has been a lecturer in the Special Pedagogy and Psychology department at the Armenian State Pedagogical University since 2005. She has also worked as a psychologist at “Ambra”mental well-being center and the Mary Izmirlyan children’s home in Armenia for the past four years. Lilit hopes the participation in the ADA program will help her to learn new approaches to develop inclusive education in her home come country and enhance the legal framework to support the people with disabilities.

Manuk Khachatryan Manuk Khachatryan has been working as a school psychologist in secondary school in Armavir, Armenia since 2015. Prior, she worked as a psychologist in psychological support center, military unit, and a medical center. Manuk hopes the fellowship program will help her to achieve her goal to establish an inclusive school that would become a model of an effective inclusive school in Armenia.

Lilit Mnatsakanyan Lilit Mnatsakanyan has been working as a special educator at the Quality School International for 3 years in Yerevan, Armenia. She is currently completing her PhD in Special Education from Armenian State Pedagogical University. Lilit hopes the ADA program will help her to learn new practical methods to improve her teaching, enhance skills to work with parents, and network with colleagues from other countries.


Veniamin Alayev Veniamin Alayev has been working as an Executive director of the Center of Social Adaptation “Kenes” in Almaty, Kazakhstan since 2013. During the last 5 years his organization focused on the preschool inclusion and supportive classes for children with special needs to enter a regular school. Prior, in his role as a coordinator of the Almaty Society of people with disabilities, Veniamin was responsible for the management, coordination, and realization of all aspects of work with persons with disabilities. Veniamin hopes the ADA program will help him to improve the quality of his work with children with disabilities.

Arman Assanbayev Arman Assanbayev is a first-year PhD student in Education with a focus in Inclusive Education at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. Arman worked as the Dean of the “Translating Services” department and as a teacher of English in the universities in Astana from 2009 to 2015. In 2013, Arman initiated “English for All” project in partnership with the National Academic Library of Kazakhstan and the Kazakh Society of Blind People to teach English to people with disabilities. In the scope of this fellowship program Arman hopes to learn how inclusion of learners with special needs is facilitated in the USA and in other countries and analyze which practices can be best applicable in Kazakhstan.

Madina Bakieva Madina Bakieva has been leading the “DARA” Private Charity Foundation in Astana, Kazakhstan since 2013. “DARA” Foundation is a non-profit organization, which has been working for over 11 years to improve access to education, development and rehabilitation for disadvantaged children in Kazakhstan. Madina initiated a project to reinforce a network of Service Centers for children with disabilities around Kazakhstan. Through participation in this fellowship program Madina hopes to directly implement selected approaches and inclusive practices at local schools, link up local experts with their colleagues from developed and developing countries and stronger advocate for inclusive education in Kazakhstan.

Sabina Ismailova Sabina Ismailova is currently working as a project manager in the Social Foundation “Solnechnyi Mir” in Astana, Kazakhstan. In this role, she manages projects related to socialization, rehabilitation of children with Down syndrome, voicing facts about people with disabilities and creating inclusive and tolerant society for people with disabilities. She has developed a NomadEd project, which is a distance education platform for people with special education needs. Sabina hopes this fellowship program will help her to develop a working plan on how to make all schools inclusive and make a clear proposal to Kazakhstani government officials.

Ainash Kudysheva Ainash Kudysheva is a Professor of Psychology and Pedagogy department at the S.Toraigyrov Pavlodar State University in Pavlodar, Kazakhstan. She has been a Chairman of the NGO “Tamshy-Pvl” since 2015. The aim of this NGO is to develop a support system for children with autism and other psycho-neurological disorders, and promote their social integration and adaptation. Through participating in this fellowship program Ainash hopes to learn about best practices in inclusive classrooms and apply them in the context of Kazakhstan.

Kamila Rollan Kamila Rollan currently studies at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan for a degree of Master of Science in Educational Leadership with Inclusive Education track. Kamila initiated an educational project at Nazarbayev University with a goal to provide an academic support to children from socially vulnerable groups. In November 2016, Kamila has founded an NGO in Kazakhstan named “Education For All.” Through participation in ADA Fellowship Program, she plans to acquire rich international experience and learn about effective strategies for inclusion. She hopes this experience would help her to become a specialist in inclusive education and to provide her country with necessary expertise and leadership in near future.

Parkhat Yussupjanov Parkhat Yussupzhanov is a founder and a president of the Youth Organization with Disabilities “Zhiger” in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Parkhat established the first disability support center for students in Kazakh National Pedagogical University. Prior, Parkhat worked as a Head of Braille and talking books publishing division at the Republican Library for Blind and Visually Impaired Citizens. Parkhat hopes the ADA fellowship program will help him to learn about strategies of inclusion for students with different types of needs, approaches for creating a barrier-free environment, and strategies for communicating with decision makers to improve access for children with special needs in preschool, school, and university levels.


Kshama Kaushik Kshama has been involved in many activities to help children with special needs, including organizing the Children’s Fair every year so that children with disabilities can meaningfully engage with each other. She has also conducted teacher training on inclusive education since 2013. Through this program, Kshama hopes to enhance her skills in planning strategies for classroom management, to later disseminate among mainstream school teachers. Additionally, she is hoping to learn practical skills to promote inclusion in both institutional and community settings.

Manjushree Patil Manjushree spent nine years working as a special educator in a school that practiced inclusion and integration. Now, she is running a school of her own, which carefully customizes to the learning experiences of children with special needs. Through this program, she hopes to get first-hand experience in inclusive education abroad. She is particularly excited to be coming to the US because she has been inspired by American policies and strategies in inclusive education.

Shabina Bano Through her work with the Hans Foundation, Shabina has created and begun a project to make a barrier-free environment in five private schools for children with special needs. Her belief that education is a basic right inspires her to learn about how to improve the quality of education for all populations. Through this program, she is hoping to expand her knowledge about inclusive education and implement inclusionary practices in schools and institutions in India.

Amvalika Senapati Amvalika has been involved in guiding NGOs toward the goal of setting up 75 government schools as models of inclusive education. Additionally, she has overseen implementing the Accessible India Campaign, and has worked to audit 87 government buildings in terms of accessibility. She hopes to learn different ways of engaging with people with special needs and broader her horizons on advocacy tools for increasing classroom participation.

Sharmila Rathee Sharmila teaches courses on learning, pedagogy, children’s literature, classroom management, and school planning, in which inclusive teaching practices are largely focused. She has also supervised research projects on inclusive education. Sharmila wants to gain a deeper understanding and wider perspective on inclusion, to gain new skills to help her train pre-service teachers, and learn to develop a stronger support system for stakeholders working toward increasing inclusive education.

Shubha Chandrashekhar Shubha is the resource person for HRD Centre DPS Society, where she conducts sessions for teachers on implementing inclusive practices, planning curricula for children with learning disabilities, guiding teachers in working with students with special needs through workshops. She hopes to enhance her knowledge and skills through this program, by interacting with diverse professionals with rich experiences. She also hopes to gain new perspectives and approaches to inclusive education, while learning bout new policies and interventions.

Pavan Bada Pavan is a rehabilitation psychologist and former teacher who has coached disability sports workshops. His work involves research, counseling, motivating others, and conducting awareness programs for individuals with special needs. Through this program, he hopes to enhance his capabilities to work in multidisciplinary settings, and to learn approaches for us future work making schools and other educational institutions inclusive settings.


Sergiy Sydoriv Sergiy teaches English to university students specializing in elementary education and English. He regularly visits local children’s shelters with his students, organizing fundraising events and activities to help patients. He is hoping to learn from American inclusive practices that enable those with disabilities to engage in the community. Additionally, he hopes to be able to share knowledge and experiences with other program members from different parts of the world.

Marta Nykolayeva Marta volunteers at Heart of the Lion, a charitable foundation established by athletes with disabilities, where she has created and managed various projects. Additionally, she was a volunteer English teacher at Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. She hopes that this fellowship will allow her to gain new knowledge in the field of inclusive education, and that she will be able to take her experiences back to Ukraine and improve educational practices.

Olga Telna Olga teaches Ukrainian and English to blind and partially-sighted children. She also founded the NGO “The Right of Choice”, which provides a wide range of services including leadership and employment training for children and young people with disabilities. She hopes to learn about the US policies and laws regarding inclusive education, to help make Ukrainian educational systems more inclusive.

Nadiia Datso Nadiia teaches English to children who are blind, using textbooks, manuals, and voiced tutorials she made herself. She also implemented the project “Step into Life”, which aims to help vision-impaired people graduate and live independently. Through this program, she hopes to learn American inclusion practices to implement in government and non-governmental organizations in Ukraine. Her goal is to develop, manufacture, and distribute educational and advisory materials for those with special needs.

Nadiya Vesnina Nadiya is a special education specialist and correctional educator. She was a member of the all-Ukraine scientific-practical conference on development of education for children with special needs. She hopes that this fellowship will allow her to learn the skills and knowledge to implement reform in her community. Her goal is to expand the circle of cooperating partners while implementing inclusive practices.

Iryna Kutsyna Iryna is a special education teacher and speech therapist. She is currently carrying out a project in her city by taking photographs of establishments with inclusive education practices, to show people what types of challenges children with disabilities face. Iryna believes that the US has had extensive experience in inclusive education, and her experience in the program will help inform her on how to improve inclusive education practices in Ukraine.

Valentyna Malanchiy Valentyna is currently a high school vice principal for a school involved in the project “Integration of Children with Special Needs in Basic and High School”. This project compelled her to attend a service-training course, and she became an assistant teacher in an inclusive class. She hopes she will be able to share the theoretical and practical knowledge gained during her stay in the US.

The Institute on Community Integration (ICI) was established in 1985 on the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota. We are a federally designated University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD - pronounced U Said), part of a national network of similar programs in major universities and teaching hospitals across the country. The Institute is home to 74 projects and 5 Affiliated Centers addressing disability issues across the lifespan (see Projects + Centers for a complete listing). In addition, it works in close collaboration with the University's Center for Early Education and Development, a Partner Center of the Institute.
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