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Tipsheet
Students sit at desks with teacher in front of board

Teaching Languages to Blind and Visually Impaired Students

Most language course work focuses on visual input as the main tool for teaching language. Students practice vocabulary by identifying pictures in the target language. Cultural curriculum focuses on the visual arts or landscapes. Exams ask students to match categories in corresponding lists.

Blind or visually impaired people benefit from language study in the same way as sighted students, but there are some key differences in the way that they learn. A multisensory approach to language teaching can help shift to a more inclusive environment.

Tipsheet
Hands holding an iphone with speech accessibility options on screen.

5 Essential iPhone Apps for Blind or Visually Impaired Travelers

Blind Square

This connects with your iPhone's GPS functions to bring you live vocalized information about where you're at and where you're going. Open the application and let it run in the background, as it tells you the street you're walking on, addresses that you pass, cross streets, and landmarks of interest. Do searches for the nearest breakfast spot or the convention center, and Blind Square will help get you there. It is excellent for getting oriented to a new place, or just getting the name of that street when there is no one around.

Tipsheet
Christi Gilson, who is a blind American, explores Hong Kong with cane and local friend

Blind and Low Vision Tips for Going Abroad

You have been accepted to a study, volunteer, or other program abroad. Now what? Here's quick preparation tips and advice upon arrival. From arranging a time for orientation training at the new location to being prepared for different attitudes on disability.

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Blind student and teacher smile while holding a hand puppet in a school hallway..

High School Placements for Blind and Low Vision Students

It used to be that the majority of blind and low vision exchange students were placed in schools for the blind in the United States. That is no longer the case. Experienced exchange professionals know that there is no one size fits all approach to placing these talented students in U.S. high schools.

In the United States, the vast majority of secondary students with disabilities are mainstreamed in public high schools.

Tipsheet
Young foreign student with mobility disability talks with an advisor

Knowing What Disability Questions to Ask: Sample Accommodations Forms

Are you advising someone with a disability who is traveling abroad for your volunteer, study or professional program? Do you know what questions to ask to assist them in preparing for travel and living abroad related to their disability?

These access information forms provide starting points to learn more about what may be needed. The advisor guidelines also help know what the individual's responses may mean and what follow-up questions you could ask. Download and adapt these for your own use; it may mean asking fewer questions on the forms and more in face to face conversations.

Tipsheet
Pushing woman in wheelchair up a ramp.

How Will I Pay for Personal Assistance Abroad?

The costs of international travel for just one person - whether for airfare, housing, or all the tasty local food - are harrowing enough. So if you're someone who will require the services of a personal assistant during your international exchange experience, the idea of doubling or even tripling these expenses can make it seem like international travel is out of reach.

Not so! For affordable PAS abroad, look for creative ways to reduce or share costs, raise funds, or negotiate with your exchange program provider to help defray the costs.

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A woman is carried up stairs on someone's back, while others bring her wheelchair.

Setting Clear Expectations for Personal Assistants

Simply being available to travel wasn't enough to meet U.S. student Lauren Presutti's criteria for providing personal assistance during her studies abroad to Australia. "It was crucial for me to find the right two people who I felt most comfortable with and who I could completely trust," says Lauren of what made her time abroad a success.

Promoting a sense of trust and confidence between you and your personal assistant (PA) begins with establishing clear roles and responsibilities for what is expected of each other while you're abroad. Begin now.

Tipsheet
Woman in wheelchair gets a push from a friend.

Will I Need Personal Assistance Services Abroad?

There are many unknowns when preparing for an exchange experience in another country, especially when it comes to figuring out how you'll get what you need to be independent. Getting from place to place, taking care of yourself, and getting assistance when needed are all part of the equation.

Not sure whether you will need personal assistance services (PAS) during your international experience or not? Ask yourself these questions to help inform your decision.

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Close up of two young women smiling.

Who Can Assist Me When I Go Abroad?

Personal assistance during your international exchange can come from a wide variety of sources, whether a hired professional, a friend or family member, a fellow traveler or even a friendly local. Weigh the potential pros and cons of your options to find the best fit for you.

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A woman and her PA in Brazil

Including Participants & Personal Assistants in Your Exchange Program

Although arranging and funding personal assistance services (PAS) for international exchange participants is not required (or only limited to program activities) by the Americans with Disabilities Act, many international exchange providers go beyond the law to ensure that a participant has appropriate services in place, recognizing that:

Tipsheet
A young woman using a manual wheelchair hangs onto the back of a young man's power wheelchair as he pulls her along a street.

Disability-Focused International Exchanges

As a person with a disability, you have the right to participate in the same international exchange opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. You may decide that you want to participate in an exchange program that is not specifically focused on the topic of disability, such as one focused on Japanese culture, public health, or the performing arts.

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An African woman with a disability and her personal assistant walking.

Using Personal Assistance Services Abroad

Whether at home or abroad, personal assistance services (PAS) provide a way for some people with disabilities to fully participate in all areas of community living. Sometimes called a personal care attendant (PCA), a personal assistant (PA) assists a person with a disability to do the things she would do for herself if she did not have a disability or had other ways to accomplish the task without human assistance. This could involve:

Tipsheet
Reading a tactile map of building floor plan

Advising Blind and Low Vision Exchange Participants

People who meet the definition of legal blindness, meaning that they possess 20/200 vision or less in the best eye, will have varying levels of eyesight. Measuring or inquiring about someone's visual acuity will not give an accurate idea of the level of assistance that they require. Since there is so much variation in the type and quality of education that any given blind or visually impaired individual might have received, it is hard to make generalizations about the supports that they might need without consulting them. 

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Student wearing a hearing aid writing in a classroom with other students.

English Testing for High School Students with Disabilities

Before they arrive in the U.S. for a life-changing cultural immersion experience, prospective high school exchange students from around the world are expected to demonstrate their level of English ability, usually by taking a standardized test. Whichever test you use to assess your applicants, learn how to adapt it to fairly and accurately measure the skills of students with disabilities.

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Stack of test books and dictionaries

Disability Accommodations for the TOEFL, GRE and Other ETS Tests

Do you plan to take the TOEFL or GRE test? You may be eligible to receive disability-related accommodations through the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers these and other tests. But start soon. All requests for testing accommodations must be reviewed and approved by ETS before you can schedule your test!

The information on this page will give you a general idea of what to expect. For complete details, instructions, and requirements, visit ETS' Information for Test Takers with Disabilities under Related Links.

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