Getting the Conversation Started: Learning Disabilities

A caucasian American man talks to a classroom of Chinese female students.
Learn more about a program and its services and supports by setting up a meeting with exchange program staff and disability support staff. Here's what you can do.

Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion. 

Suggested conversation topics and questions

Start by sharing any disability-related accommodations and services you currently use (e.g. tutor, note taker, extra time on tests, alternative formats for assignments, flexible scheduling, quiet space for testing, adaptive software, etc.).

  • Can I receive these services where I am going overseas? If not, what else could I use?
  • What if I'm not getting what I need once there? Do I need to show documentation? Who is my contact overseas? What will they do for me?
  • If necessary, who will pay for my accommodations, tutors, or other services?
  • What about the technology I use (e.g. computers equipped with spell and grammar check or adaptive software) - are these available where I am going? If not, what else can I use?
  • If I use technology there, do I need pay any fees or have time limits on my use of it?
  • If I bring my own computer or equipment, is the electricity reliable? Voltage similar? Are buildings and other facilities secure?
  • If I go to a country where I do not speak the language, how will this affect the availability of services I can access? What vocabulary do I need to know in the local language to explain about my disability and accommodation needs?
  • If I am going to study, what options are there like reduced courseload or pass/fail grading options? Are there quiet spaces for studying or testing?
  • How is the class structure different (e.g. reading lists but no specific assignments to prepare for the tests, little class participation, experiential courses with many field trips, etc.)?

"For me, the exchange was the first time being an outsider was rewarded. My differences weren’t just tolerated, they were explored. Cultural exchanges bring out a common humanity in everyone. For me, the trip taught me to accept parts of myself that I’d been trying to hide for far too long." - Zeke Nierenberg, a student who has neurological disabilities that affect learning