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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.

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High school students sit in a semi-circle in a classroom.

IEPs and 504 plans: Understanding the Difference

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.

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Power wheelchair user with breathing machine seeks assistance from another person.

Tips on Traveling with a Ventilator or Breathing Machine

When traveling internationally, you may need electrical converters/adaptors for respiratory equipment. Also airline personnel may request detailed information about its operation and use. Know your settings and how to do basic setup and problem-solving, and learn other tips for traveling safely.

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Narrow alleyway in Moroccan town

Changing Policies & Practices for Program Access

Rules and regulations that work for the majority of participants may need to be adjusted slightly to foster participation by participants with disabilities. Depending on the culture, some issues that may seem inconsequential, such as "Personal assistants are the responsibility of the individual to provide," can become rigid barriers. Changing these situations takes common sense and diplomacy. Sometimes a reasonable modification of policy will allow a participant with disabilities to fully engage in the program.

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Wheelchair strapped to the back of a motor scooter.

Wheelchair-Accessible Transportation

With information and an open mind, there are many ways to successfully problem solve transportation issues in any country. Depending on where someone will be living, transportation can vary dramatically. In big cities and even small towns in many countries, taxis, buses and public transport will be wheelchair accessible. Some basic questions about where a participant will be, what is common in that area, and what alternatives exist will help you think through the transportation options.

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Young girl transfered from wheelchair to bedroom desk to study

Wheelchair Access in Lodging

The living situation for an exchange participant is not just a place to stay, but a way to learn about family, culture and language. Some participants will be better suited to living in a dormitory, while others will thrive in a homestay family. In either case, what's key is finding a place and people who will welcome a participant with a disability into many aspects of life in the new country.

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Youth Exchange participants with disabilities try square dancing

Online Resources to Get Started

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.

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Looking at laptop

#ChangeExchange Infographic

Youth represent our next generation of thought leaders, scientists, politicians, and teachers. Our world needs their full engagement as global citizens. But, are we reaching everyone?

Are you a visual learner? Download the designed PDF of this infographic to fully see these statistics and characteristics. Find it under Documents.

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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.

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Pie chart with data below on First-Year International Students

The Numbers Tell the Story Infographic

You are not imagining it! The majority of disabled international students who arrive on U.S. campuses, and Americans with disabilities who study abroad, have non-apparent disabilities. Download this infographic to learn other characteristics and statistics about this population.

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Austin Bates (left) who has diabetes with other diverse volunteers in Peru

How To Prepare for Diversity

Do you know what to put in place at your program site to be best prepared? Can you match up the list of disabilities with the list of program accommodations? View the accessible PDF under Documents  for a designed version of the lists.

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Dealing with Doubts

Alyssa Hillary, an Autistic student blogging about her study abroad experience in China, is having a successful time but the initial reaction from the overseas university would have made one think that was not possible.

“[Chinese administrators] said people like me shouldn’t go to college, and they tried to get the program to un-accept me, and they tried to have me sent home.”

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Two professionals are meeting

Current Trends

Are you trending up or down with these changes that long-established education abroad programs are spearheading and other types of international exchanges could tap into?

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Hands giving thumbs up and thumbs down

DOs and DON'Ts of Fundraising

DOs

Convey courtesy and respect.

Remember to say “thank you” throughout the process of requesting funds, even if a potential donor can’t offer funds.

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Hands on braille keyboard

Quick Tips for Accessible Web Forms

Address common accessibility issues by designing your web forms and documents to be accessible from the start! To check out how a webpage would be read to a blind individual using a screenreader, download the Fangs Screen Reader Emulator, a Firefox plugin. To try using a real screen reader, download NVDA for Windows.

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