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Campus Internationalization and Disability Tips

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Is your campus internationalization strategy serving people with disabilities? Learn tips for promoting accessibility in education abroad, international student services, on-campus events, and more!


Global competence has become an important skill for students entering the 21st-century workforce and key for a higher education. Not all students can study abroad, so many colleges and universities work to bring the world to their students. These are only two of the different objectives achieved through what is known as campus internationalization.

For campus internationalization to be optimally effective and impactful, it needs to incorporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in such efforts, serving the campus community broadly, including people with disabilities. Your internationalization efforts, therefore, should be aligned with your institution’s DEIA commitments. Such campus internationalization activities at a college or university may include:

  • Providing opportunities for students with and without disabilities to study or abroad
  • Attracting international students with disabilities who bring global perspectives to campus
  • Supporting faculty with disabilities to conduct research involving other countries
  • Supporting faculty with disabilities to teach abroad and to lead exchange programs for students
  • Working to educate all students on the home campus about global issues through course curricula, speakers, and co-curricular activities
  • Expanding foreign language course offerings for students with and without disabilities

“As engaged members of our global society, internationalization represents a process through which we create a more inclusive global citizenship for all.”

Professor Regina Root, College of William & Mary

Get started with these tips on expanding access to your internationalization initiatives to persons with disabilities.

Education Abroad

International exchange can be an important part of every student’s education. Utilize the resources on the NCDE website to ensure that disability is not a reason why students decide to stay home.

Attract and Support International Students With Disabilities

Include students with disabilities in your international student recruitment efforts. Some helpful strategies include: use disability-positive language encouraging students with disabilities to apply; include photos of students with apparent disabilities in promotional materials; provide ample information about disability-related resources and support services available to students; and share stories of alumni with disabilities.

Take the necessary steps to ensure that your campus is welcoming to international students with disabilities with the tips and best practices from the NCDE website. Be able to advise about:

To learn more about advising international students with disabilities, watch the NCDE Webinar Series on Orientations for International Students with Disabilities.

Make On-Campus Events Accessible

All campus events should be accessible to people with disabilities, whether they are seminars, film screenings, lectures or international fairs. For example:

  • Every event should have a budget for ASL interpreters or CART – Communication Access Realtime Translation.
  • Registration forms should include a section for registrants to request disability-related accommodations.
  • Printed materials should be made available in alternative formats such as Microsoft office files, HTML, RTF, large print and/or Braille.
  • Your campus should have clear guidelines for what makes an event accessible to people with disabilities.
  • When students, faculty, or staff request permission to host an event, they should complete an accessibility checklist to ensure that their event meets campus accessibility guidelines.
  • There should be a central budget for expenses related to disability access.

See sample guidelines from Cornell University and the University of Kansas:

Cornell University’s Accessible Meeting and Event Checklist
The University of Kansas’ Best Practice Guidelines for Planning an Accessible Event

Support Faculty and Staff with Disabilities to Conduct Research and Carry Out Exchange Programs

As more faculty and staff with disabilities are empowered to teach abroad, to carry out their own research, and to design their own exchange programs, the overall inclusivity of campus internationalization will improve. At the same time, they may require reasonable accommodations just like students.

  • Ensure that faculty and staff with disabilities have the same access to reasonable accommodations as students.
  • Centralize the process for dispensing reasonable accommodations for everyone in the disability resource center.

Also read: Perspective of a Faculty with a Disability on Internationalization.

Ensure Access to Language Learning Curriculum for People with Disabilities

Learning a language is one of the best ways for students to engage with the world while exploring a different way of thinking, but people with disabilities represent a category of students at risk of missing out. Study materials may be inaccessible to blind or deaf students. Credit may be denied to a student who is unable to satisfy oral communication or written calligraphy requirements. Language departments may discourage or block students with disabilities from enrolling in a language course altogether due to misconceptions about disabled students’ capabilities to study foreign languages.

Be assured that people with disabilities can and do study foreign languages! Here are some of their stories:

Learn about the ways that people with disabilities learn foreign languages:

Offer Coursework on International Disability Rights

People with disabilities should be included in internationalization, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because they offer a unique perspective. In every country, and in every society, there have always been people with disabilities. Support the offering of classes that examine disability around the world from the human rights and social justice perspective. The subject would be valuable for students in education, health, and international development, as disability ties in with issues of poverty alleviation, women’s health, community development and more. Society has a lot to learn from the ways that people with disabilities and their families are supported by international development and public policy initiatives.

Example: Mobility International USA (MIUSA) teaches a course called Global Perspectives on Disability at the University of Oregon. The course is cross-listed under UO’s International Studies department and its Special Education Department.


By following these tips for increasing the accessibility of internationalization on your campus, you will make the academic experience richer for all.

Has your campus taken any of these steps? Are there any other actions, which are not mentioned here, that your academic community has followed? Tell us about it by sharing your best practice with NCDE!

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