Spirit participant shows why disability inclusion is important in international exchange: Part 1

May 21, 2020

This year, Spirit joins the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in celebrating 30 years of progress in access and inclusion with the Americans with Disabilities Act. You can learn more about this important act's impact through the eyes of a participant in our J-1 Teacher Program in part 1 of our latest blog post.

Throughout 2020, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 30th anniversary. The goal of this year-long campaign is to highlight the State Department’s commitment to promoting equal opportunity for people with disabilities through ECA exchange programs.
 
In honor of the 30th anniversary of the ADA, Spirit would like to highlight Mitchel Deramas, a participant on our J1 Teacher Program. 
 
For Mitchel, the triumphs of disability advocates that came before her have paved the way for her to excel not only in the classroom, but with her students.
 
Background on disability rights in the U.S.
 
Judith Heumann, now a well known disability rights activist, was a recent college graduate in 1970 trying to acquire a teaching license in New York. She was qualified in every way, however the New York City Board of Education found her unfit to teach due to her physical disability. 
 
Judy decided to appeal their decision and Heumann v. The Board of Education of the City of New York began. She eventually won and received her license but she did not stop there. She continued to fight for disability rights and was a key player in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. 
 
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life including jobs, schools, transportation and all public and private places that are open to the general public.
 
Thanks to the diligence of Judy and others, the U.S. is a better place for people with disabilities in 2020. The ADA protects teachers across the nation with disabilities and even has an international reach. 
 
Meet Mitchel Deramas, participant on Spirit’s Teacher Program
 
Mitchel Deramas is a teacher from the Philippines that came to the U.S. to teach through Spirit’s J-1 Teacher Program. The program offers U.S. schools the opportunity to welcome qualified international teachers to their faculty for 1- 3 years. She currently teaches 4th and 5th grade special education at a school in Arizona.
 
Mitchel Teaching in Arizona
Mitchel teaching at her host school in Arizona
 
Mitchel has an orthopedic condition known as a “bended leg”. This makes walking and climbing stairs difficult for her. It was actually because of her disability that she decided to become a special education teacher. 
 
Becoming a special education teacher
 
“When I was growing up it was my passion to teach. When I was in 6th grade I was teaching my younger nephews. I said okay I’ll try special education because I have a disability. I will be teaching kids with disabilities and I want to be an inspiration to them and show them they can be successful too.”
 
When applying for the J1 Teacher Program, she said she disclosed her disability during the interview with the school and was pleasantly surprised by the response from the supervisor. 
 
“In the U.S. you don’t have to prove yourself or explain that you can do it regardless of your disability. They see my ability of what I can share and bring to this school.”
 
Mitchel at a Local Restaurant
Mitchel and her American colleagues at a local restaurant
 
Mitchel explained that it wasn’t so easy in the Philippines, she had to prove that she was capable of teaching with a disability. 
 
“In the Philippines, when I applied to a private school, they saw my appearance first and not my ability. They had more questions about what I could do because of my disability.”
 
 
This is part 1 of a larger piece by Shannon Kelly. Part 2 will be posted next week. Click here for more information on Spirit's Teacher Program!