Deaf & Hard of Hearing Participants in International Exchange

Annie who is hard of hearing volunteered in Ghana
As an international traveler, challenges are to be expected. It’s how you prepare for and deal with these challenges that can make your experience a positive and empowering one!

The experience of being in a completely new environment, disability or not, can be very challenging. As a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person, these new environments may present communication challenges that you haven’t experienced before.

So, as you begin your research on participating in international exchange, start thinking about the accommodations you use and where you typically experience communication challenges in your home country. Then, try to anticipate how these challenges might play out in your destination country with different listening environments, different accents, and more. Thinking now about potential accommodations and strategies and sharing these ideas with exchange staff can help you be more independent in your international experience.

Need some ideas for potential accommodations? Check out the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Accommodations page listed in the Table of Contents!

For example, Isidore Niyongabo, who grew up orally deaf in Burundi, largely focused on lipreading and oral skills in the classroom before he came to the U.S. Recognizing that his lipreading skills in his non-native English might be difficult, he began to use a sign language interpreter and captioners in his classes at California Ohlone College.

“I found it challenging to pay attention to the interpreter to find out what exactly was going on. Later on, I got used to it, but at first, it was complex. [However], it was less stressful compared to my country where I was mainstreamed and didn’t have an interpreter. [In Burundi], I relied completely on what I saw with my eyes orally, and had to memorize everything and take notes myself.”

Whatever your communication preferences and needs, know that it is possible to participate in international exchange as a Deaf or hard of hearing individual! Links in the Table of Contents will direct you to more information on Deaf and Hard of Hearing issues in international exchange, such as disclosing your disability, setting up accommodations, funding accommodations, working with interpreters, and much more!

And, if you find that you can't address your questions using the website resources, MIUSA staff will be happy to address your concerns directly. Contact us using the Contact tab at the top of the page.