Do I have to disclose my disability?
Short Answer: No, you are not required to disclose your disability when you apply for an international exchange program or at any point during an international exchange program. If you do not need specific accommodations, you can choose not to disclose your disability.
Long Answer: If you require accommodations or other types of support that will facilitate your success in an international exchange program, you will likely need to disclose your disability. Many exchange program policies require documentation of a disability in order to provide specific accommodations.
What are the benefits of disclosure?
“One of the things I did [for my Peace Corps application was] prepare a video I titled ‘A Day in the Life of Christa Bucks.’ The video helped Peace Corps get to know me in terms of my interests and abilities as well as how I live on a daily basis. I went through my independent living skills, and I also showed them some of the work I was doing as a facilitator on a ropes challenge course. After that, I persistently followed up and that was the key to my success.” Christa Bucks Camacho learned that communicating openly about her muscular dystrophy was essential to joining the Peace Corps.
Advance preparation for your disability-related needs, including learning about available disability-related accommodations and services so that you can access all critical aspects of the international exchange program.
Legal protection against discrimination in the United States through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This includes protection from discrimination during the application process for programs based in the U.S.
Opportunity to connect with people in the disability community where you are traveling. You can also find allies within exchange program and disability services offices as well as teachers, administrators, and program staff who can assist you to find helpful resources.
Increase disability awareness, reverse negative stereotypes, and present positive models of disability to others in the exchange program and the communities that you visit.
Reduce stress that may come with trying to hide a disability, or in worrying who might assist if you experience a disability-related crisis.
Build skills in advocating for yourself and communicating disability-related needs to those around you.
“If I had the opportunity to experience my time in Barcelona over again, I would like to have had a question and answer session with all of the students in my group who did not have a disability. I feel that they would have been more comfortable around me, and I around them. They would have known that I was different - but in a very good way!” Kathleen Coleman, who is on the autism spectrum and spent four months studying in Barcelona, Spain