The Hobart and William Smith Colleges Global Initiative on Disability (GID) was launched in January 2014 with the goal of increasing awareness and action surrounding disability across the world.
“The decision to establish a Global Initiative on Disability was based on the desire to make HWS a leader in both the growing field of research on disability globally, as well as in the practice of including disability as a core component of issues of diversity,” says Helen McCabe, director of the GID, associate professor of education, and affiliated faculty in Asian studies.
Through research, international service trips, speaker series and other enterprises, the GID will be a resource to educate others about disability and an advocate for the inclusion and protection of the rights of individuals with disabilities. With the support of the Office of the Provost, the GID will also provide the opportunity for faculty to conduct research and produce new knowledge about this topic.
The GID’s initial work will include a focus on China, with research already underway, centering on disability services and professional development in the field of disability in that country. Films about disability in China will be shown throughout the spring semester of 2014, and plans for a 2015 student service trip to China are underway.
McCabe is conducting research with Professor Deng Guosheng at Tsinghua University in Beijing to understand collaboration and competition between autism non-governmental organization (NGO) service providers. The study examines educational services for children with autism, and professional development opportunities, at 69 NGOs in China.
“The research findings have implications both for NGO disability services in China, but also for disability policy in China, as we try to understand how to promote the more effective development of teacher qualifications and organizational effectiveness around autism services,” McCabe says.
As director of the GID, McCabe brings her experience in research and teaching in the field of disability in China. She began volunteering with children with autism in Nanjing, China in 1992, and has provided training for teachers and parents of children with autism in China since 2002. She is co-founder and executive director of The Five Project for International Autism and Disability Support, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to: building the capacity of organizations in China that provide services for people with autism and other disabilities; and promoting and supporting self-help and self-advocacy skills in Chinese individuals with disabilities and their families. Her research focuses on families of, and services for, individuals with autism in China — all of which provides a strong background on the issues the GID will face in China and beyond, says Solomé Rose, a member of the GID staff and the first Global and Community Leadership Fellow at the Centennial Center for Leadership.
“We are committed to conducting research and programming only when we have a solid understanding of the country and culture in which we are working,” Rose says. “Given the immense need for disability services in developing countries, our work will primarily serve communities residing in the Global South. Though our work is currently primarily focused on autism, through strategic collaborations and a needs-based assessment, the Global Initiative on Disability will work to address and tackle other forms of disability including physical, intellectual or psychological conditions.”
The work in China will serve, McCabe and Rose hope, as a model for implementing best practices in the field of disability more globally: “Having a global perspective on disability will not only inform where we conduct our work but also our approach to the extensive work surrounding disability.”
McCabe has a Ph.D. in special education and international/comparative education policy. In her role at the GID, she will lead efforts bringing together research and practice, examining new questions about disability globally, and working with others advocating and educating people around the world, promoting educational, vocational and social inclusion for people of all abilities.
Rose completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, majoring in foreign affairs and African American studies. She also holds a master’s degree in public policy from George Mason University. She has worked with the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Africa Action in Washington, D.C., and the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American Studies in Virginia. With extensive knowledge of human rights issues as well as a variety of policy experiences, Rose focused on developing new global and community leadership programs at the CCL. She brings with her to GID extensive experience working with international NGOs, including in the field of HIV/AIDS.