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Protecting and Sharing Disability Information

An advisor talks to a young woman with a disability
An advisor talks to a young woman with a disability

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.

By U.S. law, a participant does not have to specify what his or her disability is when requesting an accommodation, although they must provide professional documentation that shows they need the accommodations.

An educational institution may share educational records, when necessary to fulfill professional responsibilities, with its own school officials, basically defined as any person employed by the institution in an administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff position (including student employees), as well as third parties or companies with whom the institution has contracted, such as attorneys or auditors.

Disclosure may also be made without prior written consent to the officials of another school, school system, or postsecondary institution where the student seeks or intends to enroll,  so this likely covers those overseas institutions where an overseas applicant seeks a placement.

This also appears to apply to host families when a student is seeking a home stay as part of his or her international exchange experience, but this would be fairly simple to also obtain written consent from parents/eligible students for such disclosures.

Treatment records may be disclosed under a certain limited number of exceptions (e.g., health or safety emergency), if a student becomes a direct threat to others on the program, or with a student’s written consent.

Privacy laws and the “need to know” determinations may be different culturally, so it is best to address this in partner conversations and staff training.

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