Resource Library

Personal Story
Lizzie Kiama (right) and a friend wear helemts and smile for a photo

What Makes One Take Action?

How do short term international exchanges advance equal rights for people with disabilities? It starts with an individual taking action.

For Lizzie Kiama, a disabled activist from Kenya, an afternoon spent on a YMCA basketball court in Oregon, USA, gave rise to a new idea. “This was when my dream for Women & Wheels was born,” says Kiama who has a physical disability. “I had the opportunity to take part in Wheelchair Rugby, and I knew I had to play the sport again.”

Personal Story
Stone arches of bridge or acquaduct in Italy

Going with the Flow in Florence

Talking through her concerns with others helped study abroad student Amanda let go of her anxieties over the summer she spent in Florence, Italy.

Tipsheet
People being pulled in rickshaws in Asia

Preparations for Travel with Mental Health Conditions

Studying or volunteering abroad can open not just new adventures and cultures to you, but lessons that give you new perspectives even after returning home. Appreciating the moment. Accepting new ways of doing things. Finding your personal drive or independence. These are all what exchange alumni living with mental health conditions say are ways they grew while abroad.

Tipsheet
A young woman in a manual wheelchair bends over to dip water out of a low pool to wash her hands in Japan

Preparations for Travel with a Physical Disability

Get everything you need in place so you can start your adventure right as soon as you land. This includes finding solutions to inaccessible places, learning new strategies, and preparing for differences.

Tipsheet
Group of diverse American exchange students smile at the camera

10 Steps to a Universally Designed Exchange Program

The time put in upfront to rethink what makes a program inclusive benefits more than just participants with disabilities. It also means less need for retrofitting or scrambling to put in place individual accommodations later on. Universal design encourages flexibility and proactive planning, and bonus: you will be protecting yourself from surprises by creating a program that is suited for all.

Tipsheet
Person writing while another watches on

Crafting Health History & Medical Clearance Forms

Some international programs make it a policy to include a confidential health history and clearance form signed by a medical provider and/or an accommodation request form in the acceptance packet sent to each participant. These forms encourage the individual to talk with the medical provider about what is needed while on the program, and allows participants the option to disclose disability information and request accommodations they may require while abroad with the program staff.

Tipsheet
Close up photo of an American young man smiling

Disclosure and Building Trust

To encourage participants to disclose a disability, exchange providers must take steps to create a welcoming, supportive, judgment-free environment. Your office should be upfront regarding the use of medical and disability related information that may otherwise be confidential or private.

The person with a disability wants information and answers to questions that directly relate to their situation, BUT:

Tipsheet
Group of students in an international park, one uses a wheelchair

10 Recruitment Tips to Attract People with Disabilities

You want more people with disabilities in your international programs but they are not applying! What can you do to encourage more participation? Here's 10 ways to boost interest and ensure they not only apply but make it through the process to participate.

Blog
A group of students with disabilities in a garden

Disability is Diversity

Look at your mission statements, non-discrimination policy, or other institutional guidelines, and you are likely to see disability mentioned alongside other aspects of diversity such as racial, gender, or religious equity, and for good reason. Having a diverse community benefits everyone by introducing a wide variety of viewpoints, encouraging open-mindedness, and creating dynamic environments.

Tipsheet
An advisor talks to a young woman with a disability

Protecting and Sharing Disability Information

Conversations about an exchange participant's disability and/or disability-related accommodations should be done in a confidential setting. Only information from those conversations should be shared with others when they have a need to know.

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MIUSA staff with professionals with disabilties from 20 different countries

About MIUSA

It's time to advance the rights of people with disabilities in society through infiltration. To achieve equitable opportunities through inclusion. We see international exchange or international development as a tool for improving the lives of people with disabilities globally.

Tipsheet
Wheelchair access sign with restroom arrow

What Happens After Someone Discloses?

Do not be surprised if disabled participants do not require any accommodations. Many people with disabilities own the equipment they need for everyday life and will only need minimal assistance from others. Remember that each individual participant will have a unique approach to his or her own disability.

Recognize that finding reasonable adaptations is a process of negotiation between exchange coordinators and the participant; the goal of both is to ensure that participant has an accessible, and hopefully successful, international experience.

Tipsheet
Two people focused on an activity on the table between them

What If We Think Someone Has a Disability?

It is a participant’s choice to disclose (or not disclose) a disability. Once a participant has been accepted, you can confidentially inquire with the participant to determine whether he or she may need accommodations during the program related to  mental or physical disabilities. In making disability-related inquiries, you might want to include disability professionals in the conversation too. The individual is protected by the non-discrimination laws if they are perceived as having a disability (even if they did not tell you).

Tipsheet
Two women, one with a head scarf, lean in to talk confidentially

When Can We Ask for Disability Information?

When making choices about accepting or denying an applicant, disability information should be disregarded in the same way as any other non-discrimination status such as religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.

Best Practice
In a classroom setting, a Deaf man leads a group of other individuals with different types of disabilities in learning different signs.

Sending a Deaf Student Abroad: One University’s Experience

Disability services offices across the country are asking themselves whether or not to provide accommodations for Deaf and hard of hearing students who hope to travel abroad through educational exchange programs. For the Disability Resource Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), the question was not whether to provide overseas accommodations, but how.

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