Diverse group of study abroad students enjoy their time abroad

A Confident Voice on Inclusion

Have you noticed how disability organizations have changed in the past decades?

In the past, if someone with a disability wanted an opportunity to do sports, art, education, or travel, then they found a disability organization that offered such a program. The programs that their non-disabled peers were participating in offered more options, but they didn’t accommodate people with disabilities, nor did they have much experience doing so.

A woman assists another woman, who is a wheelchair user, down a ramp

Finding Successful Balance

At a conference for international educators I presented with two engaging college students who use wheelchairs. One studied in China and the other went to Spain, with the same very reputable study abroad provider.

Each student had a great experience, but both had also been discouraged in their original attempts to study abroad through other program providers. Too often, the initial desire to go abroad ends prematurely for students with disabilities because of discouraging experiences that result in them giving up the search.

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.

A group of people, including a woman who is blind, under a waterfall with rock climbing gear on

Challenge by Choice

In the years I have led disability leadership programs for young leaders with all types of disabilities to places far and wide. Camping under the stars (and bugs!), rolling along on a ferry boat, and pushing to the top of a medieval castle were all part of the program. Was access perfect? No. Were some students more adventurous than others? Yes.

Two women who are wheelchair users hold hands up in success

Thank the Champions

For every disability rights activist like you, there is someone else who truly heard what you were advocating. Maybe it took a lot of repeated conversations or different approaches, or maybe this person believed what you had to say the first time.

Perhaps this someone was the focused target of your efforts, or the person who listened quietly nearby. Who were these people you convinced with your eloquent truths? They are your fellow champions, whether or not they also had a disability.