Deaf and Disability-Related Exchanges
A compilation of international exchange programs that are designed for or with Deaf/ Hard of Hearing and disability communities.
People who are Deaf/hard of hearing or disabled can participate in any international exchange program, but may be specifically interested in working with, learning about, or learning alongside other members of the Deaf or disabled community. Explore these organizations and their programs that provide unique opportunities to volunteer, intern, study or teach abroad in a Deaf or disability context. Programs, itineraries and deadlines may vary from year to year. To find detailed information about upcoming programs and how to apply, contact the organization or visit its website.
Deaf and Hard of Hearing Exchanges
Learn about Deaf culture or study sign language in another country.
Basecamp International Centers
Program: Ashanti School for the Deaf
The Ashanti School for the Deaf is looking for volunteers to act as teachers' assistants in their classrooms. Volunteers may help coordinate extra-curricular programs, or teach academic subjects. Teaching assistants who can teach computer skills or coordinate after school programs in sports or music are highly desirable. Volunteers may apply throughout the year. Positions last eight or more weeks.
An exciting new opportunity to study French Sign Language and Deaf Culture with CIEE in Paris, France! For Deaf and hearing students with an intermediate level of ASL or ISL. See Paris, learn French Sign Language, meet people in the local community, learn about Deaf history and culture in France, and visit French sites with French sign language guides in an intensive three-week class! View a welcome message on YouTube from professors Moez Beddai and Victor Abbou. For more information or to apply, visit the CIEE website and select Paris summer contemporary French Studies, or contact program director Hannah Taieb.
Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW)
Program: DDW Journeys
Location: Varies. Past program sites have included Cambodia and Costa Rica.
Tel: (585) 234-8144
Video phone: (585) 286-3215
DDW is dedicated to empowering Deaf and hard of hearing people in developing countries. They strive to advance the capacity of local Deaf communities around the globe to meet their social, educational and employment needs. DDW programs are open to anyone, including U.S. and non-U.S. citizens, Deaf or hard of hearing people, interpreters, or hearing people with an interest in Deaf culture. Participants will meet local Deaf leaders and learn about issues facing their country's Deaf community. Trips are guided by a signing guide local to the host country and will be accessible in English, American Sign Language (ASL), and the local sign language. Past program sites have included Cambodia and Costa Rica.
The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State. The Fulbright Program has specific fellowships for Deaf students to Italy, Ireland and the United States.
Any U.S. Deaf or hearing graduate student in a deafness-related field has the opportunity to pursue individually tailored projects in Italy. Two Fulbright grants in Deafness, funded by the Italian Fulbright Commission, allow U.S. citizens enrolled in graduate programs to come to Italy for up to six months to conduct research, teach, or collaborate on new projects in deafness-related fields. Fluency in American Sign Language (ASL) is required. Read "Working Together: Deaf Education and the Fulbright Program (Italy and USA)" here.
The privately-funded Mason Perkins Scholarship and the Roberto Wirth Scholarship, with the collaboration of the Italian Fulbright Commission, are awarded to two Deaf Italian citizens to study for one academic year in the United States at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. Get more information on the Mason Perkins Scholarship here.Program: Ireland - US Fulbright studies in Deafness
Fulbright encourages US and Irish post-graduates and PhD candidates in Deaf Studies to apply for Fulbright general grants. Irish/EU citizens who wish to pursue a course of study or research in Deafness at the post-graduate level in the US are eligible for the award. Americans of all degree levels and disciplines, including Deaf studies, are encouraged to apply for Fulbright Full Grants. The Ireland to US grant period is nine months (either September-December or January-May). Award deadlines typically occur in the fall for programs that begin the following year.
Gallaudet University Center for International Programs and Services
Tel/TTY: (202) 651-6050
Fax: (202) 651-6038
Gallaudet University fosters cooperative research, education and training to upgrade educational, cultural, social and vocational opportunities for persons who are Deaf, their families and professionals who work with them around the world. Activities include the following:
International Internship Program -- for Deaf and hearing students from other countries who go to Gallaudet for a semester or two to acquire specific information and skills.
Global internships -- for Gallaudet junior, seniors and graduate students to do an overseas internship with Deaf and hard of hearing communities.
Foreign study -- for Gallaudet students, staff, faculty and others interested in traveling outside the United States for study.
Global Partnerships -- for units and employees at Gallaudet University to foster partnerships with Deaf and hard of hearing organizations in other countries to develop training for teachers, parents, and specialists who work with Deaf and hard of hearing children overseas.
Global Visitors Program -- for Deaf or hearing visitors from other countries who are interested in learning more about working with Deaf people or doing research.
Leadership Training Projects -- for Deaf adults in and from other countries to assist them in advocating for equal rights and creating better opportunities.
Volunteers will work as a classroom and workshop assistant and will prepare games and activities to help students in their learning process. Some volunteers may have the opportunity to facilitate their own class and are eligible to receive free Spanish lessons. Program start dates are semi-monthly. Reserve a space one month before departure date.
Program: Hear the World Expeditions
In partnership with Phonak's Hear the World Initiative and the U.S. National Park Service, Global Explorers specializes in providing life-changing travel experiences for middle and high school students of all abilities and backgrounds. Its Hear the World Expeditions join students of mixed hearing abilities to learn about and raise awareness of hearing issues. The inaugural Hear the World Expedition took place in the Peruvian Amazon and included a visit to the school for the deaf in Iquitos, Peru. Global Explorers programs, including Hear the World Expeditions, are open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.
Global Reach Out Initiative
Programs: GRO Spring Break Program and the GRO Summer/Winter Program
The Global Reach Out Initiative (GRO) strives to create a sustainable global community of Deaf advocates in developing countries. GRO has created two types of programs. The Spring Break Program provides an opportunity for Americans, typically aged 18-30, to work with Deaf peers in developing countries, while the Summer/Winter program extends this time to at least three weeks, allowing for more intensive attention on the host country's most pressing Deaf issues. Participants must be fluent in sign language. Past delegations include Kenya, Guatemala, India, Honduras, and Thailand.
Students from Goshen College, USA, travel to Jamaica for several days of orientation, before heading out to one of its 10 deaf schools. Students become intimately acquainted with Jamaican Deaf Culture and serve the school by assisting teachers or working in a school health clinic. After six weeks, students return to a central location to live with host families for the final six weeks study portion of the experience abroad. During this time, formal study includes Jamaican Sign Language classes taught by members of the Jamaican Association for the Deaf and seminars on Jamaican history and politics. The website features blogs written by program alumni.
The Taglit-Birthright Israel Trip, sponsored by the Jewish campus organization Hillel, provides free heritage trips to Israel for Jewish individuals who have never been on a peer-group trip to Israel, ages 18-26, to explore cultural and religious aspects of Israel with peers. Since 2003, Hillel has added an ASL component to the annual trip so that students may experience Israel while traveling with a community of their deaf and hard of hearing peers. The bilingual ASL/Spoken English program is open to both deaf and hard of hearing people who use ASL as their primary language and hearing people who know ASL. Past trips have included meetings with deaf Israelis, and the opportunity to meet deaf Israel soldiers. Sign up for email notifications about future trips on the program website.
In the summer, IMHO leads a two-week global service learning trip designed to educate and empower deaf youth in Ethiopia. Volunteers work in partnership with local leaders in Ethiopia to develop educational programs for deaf youth. Volunteers interact with local deaf people, conduct educational service programs for deaf children, and visit with local organizations at the forefront of developing services for the benefit of the deaf community. Program fees for the 2013 program were $1700 per person, excluding airfare and visa fees. Contact the Trip Director to request an IMHO Volunteer Application and Release or visit the website.
Peace Corps has thousands of volunteer opportunities for Americans aged 18 or over who are interested in public service abroad. One of the goals of the Peace Corps is to help the people of other countries gain a better understanding of Americans and its multicultural society. The agency actively recruits people with a variety of backgrounds and experiences, including people from the Deaf and disability communities.
Peace Corps volunteers who express interest or skills in working with the Deaf or disability community may teach at specialized schools or work in other opportunities. Read stories by Peace Corps volunteers who are Deaf or have disabilities.
This program is open to Deaf students and teachers, Deaf and hard of hearing people, and any individual able to communicate in American Sign Language (ASL). People fluent in ASL are needed for two schools in Senegal to teach in classes of 30-40 students. Although all teachers are unpaid volunteers, this is an invaluable opportunity to live and work in a peaceful, French speaking country on the coast of West Africa. Deaf students and teachers are encouraged to apply. Program dates are flexible and typically last 1-10 months.
The Siena School offers a variety of options for students to explore Italian Sign Language (LIS) and the Italian Deaf-World. While the majority of its programs are open to American Sign Language (ASL) users, one option is also open to Non-ASL users. All students who study LIS at the Siena School will be encouraged to interact with the local and national Deaf community and Deaf association (ENS - Ente Nazionale Sordi).
Students who have never learned ASL can enroll at the Siena School and take LIS and Italian Deaf Culture as one of their three electives. Students may also have an opportunity for a service-learning project, depending on the need for assistance. For fall semester (August-December), applications are due in late April, while those applying for spring semester (January-May) should do so by November.
This program consists of a track for Deaf signers and another for hearing signers. Deaf signers will have the option of taking three electives and will have interpreters provided by the Siena School. Hearing signers will be required to have taken at least two semesters of ASL prior to enrolling and will follow a pre-established track in sign language and Deaf culture. This program will continue every spring semester (January-May), and applications are due in November.
This intensive three-week program presents Deaf students with the opportunity to learn Italian, LIS and Italian Deaf culture. Language instruction is directly taught in sign language. This program welcomes students from around the country, majoring in a variety of disciplines. Credit transfer is possible. Applications for summer programs must be received by April.
This intensive three week program invites hearing students to learn Italian, LIS and Italian Deaf Culture. Students are required to have at least four semesters of ASL before enrolling. This program often welcomes interpretation majors, ASL Studies majors, Deaf Studies majors, and Deaf Education majors. Credit transfer is possible.
This intensive two week program allows professionals within the Deaf-World to learn Italian and Italian Deaf Culture. Professionals need to have proof of professional experience within the Deaf-World. This program often welcomes interpreters and teachers. Professional development hours are available if prearranged.
In partnership with the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, World Endeavors is seeking experienced Deaf educators who are fluent in sign language as well as volunteers without signing abilities. The Summer Program is an intensive literacy program with the goal of teaching Jamaican Sign Language and English reading and writing skills to Deaf educators in Jamaica. Volunteers are needed year round to support the efforts of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf. There is a particular need for volunteers during the month long Summer Program in July.
Program: Deaf Education in the Philippines
World Endeavors seeks experienced, English-speaking Deaf educators who can help children in the Philippines by volunteering to teach computer classes in Tacloban City, Philippines. Volunteers work about twenty hours per week teaching computer classes to local Deaf children and assisting staff with other projects. Local teachers will provide guidance to the volunteers and will help to identify any additional needs the children may have. Volunteers may also have the opportunity to teach English.
Participants can choose when they would like to start and the duration of their volunteer program. A typical program ranges from 4 to 6 weeks. Volunteers are encouraged to apply early and submit applications 12 weeks prior to the intended start date. Placements in schools are generally not available mid-March through early June nor from mid-December through early January.
These exchange programs offer international opportunities to those with sensory, mobility, mental health-related and other disabilities. Others are open to people with and without disabilities who are interested in working with or learning about disability communities abroad.
Association of Camphill Communities
With over 100 communities in Europe, North America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and India, Camphill Communities serve different age groups in a supportive living environment for people with learning disabilities. Volunteers from all over the world interested in serving as a resident volunteer to one of its schools, training centers, or adult communities must apply to the individual community in which they wish to serve. Volunteers receive training to provide classroom or training support, assist pupils in their daily activities, do outdoor work with a team, and other responsibilities. Volunteers are over 18 and serve at least six months, during which time they live and work along side Camphill residents as part of the community, assisting in daily activities and educational workshops. English proficiency required.
Program: Cultural Approaches to Disability course through CIEE's Summer Contemporary French Studies
Location: Paris, France
Contact: Hannah Taieb, Professor
The intensive summer class on Cultural Approaches to Disability offers undergraduates the possibility to explore questions of disability and disability studies in Paris, France. French scholars and activists will speak in the class, and students will visit local organizations and other relevant sites during outings. Themes will include the history of disability policies and militancy in France, the metaphors of "le handicap," gender and race issues, representations in contemporary French cinema, and French approaches to particular disabilities and abilities. The class is held in an accessible classroom at the University of Paris Diderot and students are lodged at the apartment-hotel Adagio Bercy, right across the Seine. Students with disabilities necessitating special arrangements are invited to make themselves known so accommodations can be put into place. Students may go through their university study-abroad office or contact the professor, Hannah Taieb.
This seminar will examine French disability policies, with a focus on the educational domain, and considering European legislation and its impact. It will also look at metaphors of disability and ability, of the “normal” and the marginal, and examine the kinds of perceptions and communities that emerge around particular disabilities (blindness, reduced mobility, etc.). Bringing together French scholars, university “access” professionals, and disability-rights activists to share their scholarship and experience in a collaborative setting with U.S. faculty, administrators, and activists, this seminar hopes to create interesting conversations between these groups, and between the “temporarily able-bodied” (to use a telling U.S. term) and those “in a disabled situation” -- to use the French formulation which emphasizes that disability is a relationship between a person and society, rather than being inherent in a person. Funding assistance is available for faculty seminars: Ping Faculty Development Fellowship awards in the amount of $1000-1500 are available for 10-15 International Faculty Development Seminar participants per year.
Fellowship Travel International
Program: Sports and Community Work
Contact: Johanne Cossette, Tour Manager, (800) 235-9384, x. 119
Fellowship Travel International serves travelers focused on global exploration, study and outreach and offers customizable group excursions that may also be open to individuals. Contact the tour manager to schedule an excursion. Volunteers have the option to work in several projects that encourage physical and emotional growth through sports. Among the service tasks, volunteers may assist with special sports programs working with people with disabilities, such as working with or participating in a wheelchair tennis program for Romanian adults with disabilities in the community.
Global Explorers specializes in providing travel experiences for middle and high school students of all abilities and backgrounds. The Leading the Way program is open to blind/visually impaired and sighted students ages 14 to 21. Each Leading the Way expedition involves preparatory curriculum prior to travel and a service leadership project after travel. Previous international destinations include Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, and Tanzania. Global Explorers programs are open to US and Canadian residents only. Applications are due in November of the year prior to travel.
IE3 Global Internships
Program: Ethiopian Center for Disability and Development (ECDD) Internship
Contact: Christopher Bennett, Africa Regional Director
Promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in civil society while working with a team of multilingual development professionals in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ECCD interns will contribute to the improvement of accessibility of public buildings, train government and NGO staff in disability awareness, research the situation of children with disabilities in Ethiopia, and organize and manage the disability resource center. Applicants with disabilities or who come from families with a disabled family member are encouraged to apply for all positions. The position of Trainer on Disability Awareness requires that the intern have a disability (either physical, visual or hearing impairment) in order to be an effective trainer. ECDD will work with interns to arrange disability-related accommodations. Up to two interns will be hired each term. Internships last three to six months.
Program: Residential training program
Deadline: March 15
Kanthari International equips social entrepreneurs to bring their social visions to reality. Its residential training program in South India provides training in project planning, marketing, non-profit financial management, and other foundational skills needed to launch the participant's specific social vision. The program is fully funded by scholarship and accepts applicants from all over the world of all abilities and education levels. People with disabilities are encouraged to participate. All participants are responsible for their own airfare to and from India.
Also learn how you can Create Short-Term International Exchanges between Disability Groups.
Mobility International USA
Mobility International USA has 1-3 week programs throughout the year which focus on cross-disability issues. Youth, young adults, grassroots women, and professionals participate in programs to various countries and the United States. Eligibility requirements vary, and scholarships may be available. Sign language interpreters are provided.
New Directions for people with disabilities, inc., is a non-profit organization providing international leisure and educational travel opportunities for teenagers, adults and seniors who have cognitive disabilities. The emphasis is on enriching educational travel opportunities to expand experiential learning and enhance the self-esteem of every traveler. Each program includes personal attention and service, and scholarships are available. Trips are typically one week long and occur throughout the year. International destinations occur less frequently and fill up quickly.
People to People
Program: Citizen Ambassador Program
People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs host professional exchanges in other countries. Professionals from similar fields explore the host country while sharing professional knowledge and learning from their global counterparts. Itineraries are customized for professionals in the following fields: agriculture, arts and humanities, business, education, law, medicine, science and technology, and the social sciences. Past disability-related delegations have included an intellectual and developmental disability delegation to Brazil, mental health delegations to South Africa and India, and others.
Location: Commonwealth of Dominica
As an independent, nonprofit organization, RWE was founded by returned Peace Corps volunteers and is designed to be supported by volunteers who have a desire to do volunteer work overseas but are unable to make the long-term commitment required by programs such as Peace Corps.
The organization operates from its headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, and currently has operations in the Commonwealth of Dominica. The organization's main focus is on building personal and economic capacity among the people with disabilities of the Caribbean island of Dominica. Overseas volunteers serve organizations such as the Dominica Association of Persons with Disabilities (DAPD), The Alpha Centre (a special school for children with mental disabilities), and The National Special Olympics Team of Dominica.
Volunteer programs in Dominica are nine days in length, and may be extended. Participants must be 18 to volunteer unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Program logistics and registration information are available online.
Elderhostel/Road Scholar and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) have partnered to offer unique international educational learning opportunities for adults who are blind or visually impaired.
The first in a series of new Road Scholar adventures will launch in April 2011. Developed in association with ACB’s sister organization The Spanish National Organization for the Blind (ONCE), ACB members will journey to Madrid on a week-long program to discover the famed Spanish capital’s culture and history.
Special highlights will include hands-on workshops, sampling of local culinary and cultural flavors, visits to the ONCE School for the Blind and opportunities to explore Museo Tiflologico de la Once, which is home to scale models of national and international monuments, rooms devoted to artistic works made by blind people, and instruments used by the blind for the past 200 years.
U.S. citizens who are ACB members are eligible for the pilot program, although it is possible that future programs will be open to a wider audience. For more information about these unique programs, please visit the Road Scholar website for updates, or call Pam Shaw of the American Council of the Blind at (215) 753-1527.
Success Oriented Achievement Realized (SOAR)
Serves youth with learning disabilities or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder who want to build life skills through adventure opportunities in the U.S. and Latin America. Applicants must attend a U.S. SOAR program before being able to apply for international SOAR program.
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Wheels for Humanity
UCP Wheels for Humanity brings trained professionals to custom fit donated wheelchairs as well as ambulatory aid equipment including walkers, crutches and physical therapy equipment to recipients in developing countries. Volunteers pay their own expenses and are encouraged to look for sponsors. Many volunteers are sponsored by employers, religious affiliates, friends and family. Visit the UCP Wheels for Humanity website for a trip schedule and more information about volunteer opportunities.
Voluntary Service Overseas/CUSO-VSO
VSO Canada’s long-term volunteer program accepts volunteers from a wide variety of professional backgrounds to work in partnership with people in developing countries to contribute to its development goals. Projects specific to the Deaf or disability community include increasing people's opportunities to participate fully in society by promoting independence through child development, education, daily living skills, mobility assistance and employment training. Living stipends and travel expenses are provided. CUSO-VSO/VSO is committed to working with applicants with disabilities to explore suitable volunteer placements. The length of these placements ranges from seven months to two years and volunteers are required to have qualifications in their field and at least two years of related experience. Read one Deaf-Blind volunteer's Nigerian experiences on her blog.
Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese students and Stanford University students who are community-minded are invited to apply for the AUSL program, in which students learn about the impact of service work on issues related to health and disabilities and the environment. Through workshops on the Stanford University campus, a week-long service project in San Francisco, and a reflection session at the end of the program, participants learn about how non-profit organizations function and the spirit of volunteerism. Four Stanford Coordinators who participate in AUSL also join a week-long service project in Asia after the program. The program takes place over four weeks in the summer.
Program: Guangzhou English Training Center for the Handicapped (GETCH) volunteer
Contact: Patrick Arnold, China Program Director
Americans can volunteer at this non-profit college in South China, which enrolls students with physical disabilities. Since 2000, VIA worked with this organization to send volunteer English teachers to work at GETCH for 1-2 years. This is a unique opportunity for someone with a disability or with an interest in international exchange and disability issues.
Volunteer Positive empowers people living with HIV to be engaged global citizens by creating service opportunities through partnerships abroad. Additionally, Volunteer Positive supports training and education for international volunteer organizations committed to proactive inclusion for people living with HIV. The organization is working towards creating partnerships in Asia, Latin America, and South Africa. Sign up to become a member to learn about future international volunteer opportunities on the website. People affected by HIV, including allies, are encouraged to join.
The following universities and colleges have formerly hosted programs that incorporated experiential learning and a disability-focused curriculum in an international setting. If you are interested in pursuing a degree in Disability Studies in the US, check the list of Disability Studies programs in North American Academic Institutions. Read a review of English-language Disability Studies degrees and courses in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
Michigan State University Office of Study Abroad
Program: Disability in a Diverse Society
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Contact: Dr. Michael J. Leahy, Professor and Director of Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Services, (517) 432-0605
Students will explore their own attitudes and beliefs about persons with disabilities through formal instruction, as well as an experiential learning component. The program will appeal to both students with and without disabilities who have an interest in disability studies. Performance-based and need-based scholarships are available. The program takes place in the summer. Students are urged to apply well before the deadline in order to process a reasonable request for accommodation.
The University of Kansas summer study abroad program in Peru, in partnership with Centro Ann Sullivan del Perú (CASP), aimed to give participants an international perspective on the social, educational, and non-governmental services available to Peruvian adults and children with various disabilities and their families in the coastal and mountain regions of Peru. The program invited students from any accredited US college or university with an interest in international mobility issues to visit public and private centers and schools serving children with special needs in Lima and Cusco as well as organizations and groups that serve adults with disabilities. Participants also attended presentations by renowned disability leaders and scholars on various aspects of independent living and disability in Peru.
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Office of Students with Disabilities
Program: Project Access
Location: Varies. Past programs have included Britannia and the South Pacific
Contact: Michelle Rigler, Director
When OSD launched its inaugural study abroad trip to the South Pacific, it invited students registered with the OSD and their family members to join staff for disability accessibility and policy research in Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, countries noted for their accessibility to people with disabilities. The following year, members of the Chattanooga community were also invited to participate in a two-week study of disability accessibility and policy, this time in Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England alongside those registered with OSD and UTC faculty. Visit the website to view photos and student-produced footage from the trips.
Wright State University Center for International Education
Program: Ambassador Program to Switzerland
Contacts: Tracy Kingsley, Director; Dr. Gaetano Rassaro Guzzo, (937) 775-2952; Dr. Sarah E. Twill, (937) 775-2240
For the first time, UCIE's ambassador program, which arranges short-term education abroad programs during academic intersessions, tailored a unique trip specifically designed for students with disabilities who may have otherwise believed international travel to be beyond reach. For a recent summer program to Switzerland, students with diverse disabilities as well as peers without disabilities earned credit by studying their host country in a classroom setting, received an introduction to local languages, including sign language, and took part in cultural immersion activities. Citing a goal to be the university with the most disabled students studying abroad, UCIE has plans to continue the program, and to make other study abroad programs more accessible.
Although efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, MIUSA/NCDE cannot be held liable for inaccuracy, misinterpretation or complaints arising from these listings. Mention of an organization, company, service or resource should not be construed as an endorsement by MIUSA/NCDE. Please advise NCDE of any inaccuracies you may find.