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IRAP Announces New Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Program Led by Elham Youssefian


June 11, 2024


Spencer Tilger,


(New York, NY) – Today, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) announced the creation of its new Disability Inclusion and Accessibility program. The program will be led by Elham Youssefian, formerly of the International Disability Alliance – a global network of organizations of persons with disabilities. As the program’s director, Youssefian will promote equal access to safety and protection, and meaningful participation for refugees and other displaced persons with disabilities. 

The announcement coincides with the 17th Session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – the convention that specifies that persons with disabilities who are in situations of risk or humanitarian emergencies, including those who are displaced, are entitled to equal rights. 

As her first international advocacy effort, this week Youssefian will participate in the 2024 UNHCR Global Consultations with NGOs in Geneva, Switzerland contributing to the discussion of the intersection of forced displacement and disability. 

“We are thrilled to announce the expansion of IRAP’s critical work ensuring refugees and other displaced people with disabilities are able to have a safe place to live and a safe way to get there,” said IRAP Deputy Executive Director Nisha Agarwal. “For far too long, people with disabilities have been excluded from the systems meant to protect them and the decision making processes that create those systems. We are deeply honored to have Elham Youssefian’s years of experience guide this transformative work moving forward.”

About Elham Youssefian

Elham Youssefian (full bio) is a blind human rights lawyer born and raised in Iran who is uniquely positioned to offer expertise in how to ensure disabled refugees have the equal rights they deserve. In addition to her work at the International Disability Alliance, she also worked as protection officer with Danish Refugee Council office Iran serving Afghan refugees in the country. Youssefian holds a Master of Human Rights Law from the London School of Economics. 

“IRAP’s commitment to expanding access to legal pathways and meaningful participation for people with disabilities is ground-breaking, and I am grateful to have the opportunity to lead this work,” said Elham Youssefian. “Displaced people with disabilities will be the main drivers of this journey to remove barriers for them to access safety.”

About the Program

Displaced people with disabilities often face systemic barriers to accessing safe pathways to protection in the United States and around the world. Additionally, this population is excluded from decision making processes and discussions about displacement. To address these issues, IRAP’s new Disability Inclusion and Accessibility program seeks to:

  1. Transform IRAP into a disability-inclusive and accessible organization providing legal services to displaced persons with disabilities, and advocating to ensure equal access to safety pathways for people with disabilities.
  1. Through deepened collaboration and funded partnerships, advance meaningful participation of displaced persons with disabilities in decisions and processes that affect them.
  1. Advance the public narrative and sensitivity on barriers faced by displaced persons with disabilities to access safety, creating public demand to fulfill obligations to address those barriers.

The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is a global legal aid and advocacy organization working to create a world where refugees and all people seeking safety are empowered to claim their right to freedom of movement and a path to lasting refuge. Everyone should have a safe place to live and a safe way to get there.