Rights and Responsibilities: A Guide to National and International Disability Related Laws for International Exchange Organizations and Participants (2nd Edition)
Highlighting international laws and policies related to disability issues and case studies and stories of how these rights and responsibilities have been put into practice.
Edited By: Susan Sygall and Michele Scheib
Copyright: 2005 Mobility International USA/National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange
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This 125-page publication is packed with information regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and how it and other disability civil rights laws protect those participating in international exchange. It also includes information on the right of equal participation in study abroad programs for students with disabilities, international laws and policies related to disability issues and case studies and stories of how these rights and responsibilities have been put into practice. Knowledge is power and knowing ones rights and responsibilities can give one the power to make the dream of an international exchange experience a reality.
Table of Contents
The Americans with Disabilities Act: What International Program Coordinators Need to Know
The Rights and Responsibilities of Program Participants
The Civil Rights of Travelers with Disabilities: The Impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Other Disability Civil Rights Laws
International Law and Policy
The Right of Students with Disabilities to Equal Participation in Study Abroad Programs
The Presumption Against Extraterritoritality: Case Studies
Study Abroad Experiences Offer Unique Opportunities and Challenges for Student swith Disabilities
Meeting the ADA Challenge: A U.S. Student in Spain
Arranging for Sign Language Interpretation Abroad: A Disability Service Provider Perspective
Collaboration between Home and Host Universities
Accommodating Exchange Students in the United States
A Short Overview of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Resources and Publications
Legal Updates to the Publication (2010)
Points highlighted in two 2010 updates on Americans going abroad
and international participants to the United States, summarized from a
memo from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, include:
- American schools or universities must take some proactive steps
to encourage their overseas program partners and organizations to
provide physical and program modifications, auxiliary aids, and other
- Mandating medical disclosure should not be for
the sake of disclosure, but to assist the applicant to make a thorough
and fair self-evaluation of whether she has, or can acquire, the
qualities that the university or exchange program considers necessary
for a successful overseas experience in a particular country.
U.S. university or school on American soil that is being asked to place a
student with a disability cannot use the fact that the foreign student
is not yet on American soil to somehow immunize itself against being
subject to federal law.
Click on the following links (which are not included in the publication above):
Other Legal Perspectives (2012)
The National Association on College and University Attorneys published a NACUANotes article in April 2012 "Federal Disability Laws: Do they translate to study abroad?" which points to:
- "Under certain factual scenarios, Section 504 and the ADA do apply to study abroad programs.”
- “Unfortunately, the recent ADA Amendments offered no clarification with respect to whether the ADA and Section 504 apply to programs taking place outside of the United States. There is at least a colorable argument that they do not apply abroad, but for the reasons discussed below, institutions should strongly consider designing and administering study abroad programs with the presumption that those laws do apply.”
- “Specifically, there are significant mission-related, image-related, and practical considerations that favor proceeding as if disability discrimination laws apply to study abroad programs.”
They also share another case not covered in the above documents:
- In Husson College (OCR, Eastern Division, January 5, 2005),  a student applied for a nursing program class offered in Honduras but claimed that she had disabilities that caused “constant headaches” and periods where she was unable to function mentally or physically. The College discussed with the student the medical safety issues that could arise if she participated in the class, and subsequently the student withdrew her request to participate.
- She then filed a complaint with OCR alleging that the college denied her the opportunity to participate in the Honduras program. OCR may have been able to dismiss the complaint based on a lack of extraterritorial application, but it did not. It simply found that the college never denied the student participation and that it was reasonable for the college to engage in discussions with her about potential safety issues.
In the second part of the NACUANotes they address:
“Include the student in all 'what if' discussions and accessibility planning.”
- “Moreover, even in the pre-admission phase, disability laws do not appear to prohibit institutions from requiring that a physician certify a student’s ability to safely and fully participate in the program. Such forms, however, should be carefully drafted so as not to directly inquire regarding disabilities, but rather to focus on the essential program requirements. Additionally, such forms, if used, should be required of all program applicants.
- “It does mean, however, that institutions will be faced with additional
questions such as, 'At what point can we inquire about a student’s
disabilities in order to arrange for accommodations?' And, 'To what
lengths must we go to accommodate a student with a disability who is
studying abroad?' Those issues are discussed more fully in the article.
Read the full NACUANotes article by downloading in Word: "NACUA Notes: Federal Disability Laws: Do they translate to study abroad?"
The National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency,
published the report “Toward the Full Inclusion of People with
Disabilities: Examining the Accessibility of Overseas Facilities and
Programs Funded by the United States.” This report, intended to advise
the President, Congress, and other federal agencies, analyzed the extent
to which U.S. disability laws apply overseas. It concluded that laws
should be interpreted to provide the same protections to Americans with
disabilities throughout the world.
“The extraterritorial application of American disability rights laws
is essential to ensuring that Americans with disabilities can travel,
live, and work anywhere they want to in the world. One example that
illustrates the importance of these laws applying abroad occurs when an
American with a disability encounters an emergency in a foreign country
and needs to be able to access the U.S. embassy in the country.”