Learning Disability Accommodations

In India, a beautiful scene of colors and candles is assembled on the ground.
In order for people with learning disabilities (LD) or attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to have equal access and opportunity, the following are adjustments that level the playing field.

What can make international programs accessible?

Exchange professionals and faculty need to talk with the individual with the learning disability and/or ADHD and disability specialist to figure out what is needed as each person is different. If the individual does not have a learning disability diagnosis, then some of these practices may as be useful to try out to see if it helps to remediate issues the individual may be having.

For more detailed considerations for someone who does have LD or ADHD, download the access information forms and advisor guidelines under Documents to help with planning for an exchange program.

Interactive and Experiential

Many people with learning disabilities and/or ADHD are drawn to the experiential nature of international exchange programs. Learning about art by going to an art museum may come much more easily to someone with a learning disability or ADHD than reading about art in a book. Even programs with a strong experiential component can still have some time in a traditional classroom or work setting. For those settings, the accommodations and assistive technologies below will be helpful.

Extra Time and Quiet Location

Arrange for a distraction-free environment where people can complete work assignments, study independently, or focus on tests or homework. If the program is not in a traditional work or campus environment, staff may need to get creative by finding, for example, an empty hotel room or unused office. Ear plugs can also be useful.

Human Note-taker

Another exchange participant may be willing to serve as a note-taker in staff meetings, research presentations, or student classrooms. If the person with LD or ADHD prefers anonymity, arrangements can be made to have notes delivered and picked up in an office. The note-taker should be clear about his/her responsibilities, and whether a stipend is available from the home institution, research institute, conference sponsor, or employer.

Tutor or Coach

While tutoring or coaching is not considered an accommodation in the U.S., it can be a valuable service for a person with a disability who may have difficulty processing information in a classroom, internship, or volunteering environment. Formal tutoring or executive function skills assistance may require additional funds, so be sure to consider who would cover the cost and budget for inclusion if the program or host will be responsible. 

Adjusting and Evaluating Tasks

Students with learning disabilities or ADHD may be concerned that grades achieved in a less accessible, overseas academic environment may be lower than their average and thereby reflect poorly on their overall academic success. Students may consider programs in which there is an option for reduced coursework, overseas coursework to be ungraded, or for grades not to be reflected in the overall grade point average. It may also be possible for students to arrange for their overseas work to be combined into a portfolio to be graded upon their return to the United States.

For those in professional or volunteer settings, the assigned tasks and the way information is communicated can be best determined through open conversations between supervisors and the participant to lay the groundwork for success.

Materials in an Accessible Format

This may include electronic versions of print materials, so the individual can use assistive technology to change color contrast, hear audio versions, and other tools to assist in accessing the material.