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"American school is so neat," signs Belvion, a Deaf exchange student from Mozambique who communicates using sign language. "They've got libraries and computers and the teachers are great. I'm loving it."
Belvion is one of the many high school students with disabilities who come to the United States every year to live and study on an exchange program. Are you ready to be an exchange student too?
Together with their partner organizations around the world, AFS-USA has recruited 72% of the YES students with disabilities over the last ten years.
Percent of YES Students with Disabilities by Recruitment Organization (2007-2016)
Infographic shown as portions of an apple.
< 1% American Councils
< 1% AMIDEAST
< 1% IRIS
YES Students with Disabilities by Disability Type (2007-2016), as shown on a pie chart.
35% Blind/Low Vision
19% Physical Disability
FLEX Students with Disabilities by Disability Type (2007-2016), as shown on a pie chart.
59% Physical Disability
29% Blind/Low Vision
Total Number of Students by Disability Type (2007-2016)
- 40% Physical Disability
- 32% Blind/ Low Vision
- 25% Deaf/HOH
- 2% Non-apparent
Students with Physical Disabilities
- 37% Cerebral Palsy
- 11% Scoliosis
- 7% Short Stature
- 8% Amputee
- 3% Spina Bifida
- 1% Polio
- 1% Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
- 32% Other
Number of Students with Disabilities by Placement Organization (2007-2016)
Depicted as layers on an image of a pencil.
Percent of Deaf or Blind Students Placed at Specialized Schools vs. Mainstream Schools (2007-2016)
Illustrated by highlighted symbols of students and a schoolhouse
- 50% of students who are Deaf are placed at specialized schools vs. in mainstream public schools
- 25% of students who are blind are placed at specialized schools vs. in mainstream public schools
The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are competitive, merit-based scholarship programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Over the last ten years, more than 250 students with disabilities from 37 countries have participated these life-changing youth programs.
A line graph showing the total number of FLEX and YES Students with Disabilities, by Year, 2007-2016
Number of FLEX Students with Disabilities, by Year
2007 = 16
2008 = 14
2009 = 12
2010 = 12
2011 = 12
2012 = 14
2013 = 9
2014 = 20
2015 = 11
2016 = 14
In the United States, the vast majority of secondary students with disabilities are mainstreamed in inclusive high schools per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). First passed in 1975, the IDEA is a powerful landmark civil rights law that guarantees access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) appropriate to every child with a disability.
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.
Youth with disabilities participate in high school exchange programs in the U.S. every year. Although many international students with disabilities will need few, if any, disability-related accommodations in the United States, others will need services and support to participate fully in their host schools. Students may receive services and support informally or through an IEP or 504 plan.
The U.S. Department of State offers study abroad scholarship opportunities for American high students and strives to represent the diversity of the United States, including persons with disabilities, in all exchange programs. Each year, almost 2,000 U.S. Department of State-sponsored exchange students from over 50 countries, all of whom have undergone a competitive, merit-based selection process, spend the academic year in communities across the United States. Exchange students can help bring the world into your home and community.