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A Conversation on Learning Disabilities & Study Abroad


Education abroad advisors discuss common services available in various locations, typical requirements for setting up those accommodations, and cultural differences to keep in mind when studying abroad with learning disabilities.

While students may have established academic accommodations at their U.S. institutions, when they choose to study abroad they also choose to accept the challenge of studying in a new educational system that may or may not offer the same accommodations.

This NAFSA: Association of International Educators sponsored Collegial Conversation was a live chat on November 10, 2016, to respond to questions from the field on what is required and possible in making arrangements for U.S. study abroad students with learning disabilities or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

NAFSA members are able to access the transcript at this link “Preparing to Study Abroad: Learning How to Navigate Academic Accommodations”.


Renee Lopez is the assistant director of student health and safety at the Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana. She oversees health and wellness pre-arrival advising of student applicants, assists students in coordinating services abroad, and arranges for special accommodations as needed. In addition, she is the chairperson of the IFSA-Butler Inclusive Excellence Special Needs Working Group which researches available accommodations and services that will enhance student experiences on the ground in each IFSA-Butler operating location. Prior to her current role, she was a program advisor for students applying to programs in Scotland and Australia.

Jan Gardiner is an assistant director in the student disability service of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. She has worked in a range of support services at the university for over 25 years. She held a variety of management roles in the accommodation services department and also headed the undergraduate admissions team for the largest college in the university (arts, humanities, and social sciences). Seven years ago she became assistant director for the student disability service, and in that capacity has managed the process of delivering support to students who have disabilities, learning difficulties or health conditions that impact on their studies. In the past year, she has taken on a development capacity and has taken the lead in introducing a number of initiatives to raise the profile of disability support amongst staff and students at the University of Edinburgh.

Michele Scheib is project specialist at Mobility International USA, working for the past two decades on the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. She specializes in advising exchange participants with disabilities to and from the United States, and providing technical assistance to colleges/universities and organizations on disability inclusion and international exchange. She initiates new projects each year involving communications, research, and resource development. She completed her masterÔÇÖs degree in comparative and international development education at the University of Minnesota addressing the topic of students with non-apparent disabilities in education abroad.

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The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange is a project of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the United States and other countries, and is supported in its implementation by Mobility International USA.

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