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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
As a visitor from England to the U.S., Portia recalls striking differences in U.S. culture and the academic accommodations she received for depression.
I have always considered India to be one of the most vibrant and fascinating areas of the world. The idea that I could study in Bangalore seemed like a remote dream to me until I received the Gilman Scholarship. In India, I observed how people deal with poverty and adversity and am attempting to incorporate my findings into conquering my own personal struggles.
It’s a really big transition to go from high school to college, and I really needed a year off from academics to go out and see the world. In high school or college, you are expected to do what people tell you to do; I was suffocating in high school and just needed to get away.
With a gap year it was more about advocating for myself on what I wanted to do based on my needs and what I felt comfortable with. I enjoyed the independence I got during my gap year, and by doing volunteer work, I was accomplishing something and being helpful to those who needed it.
Reputable exchange programs should have health, safety, security and risk management plans in place. When deciding on a program or assessing it after you are accepted, ask questions about plans for crises or emergencies abroad and how information about your disability will be shared and accommodated in a crisis event.
Tough situations come up abroad, but knowing that there are study abroad staff, faculty and other exchange students around can be a big comfort in knowing you don’t have to figure them out alone. Nonetheless, you need to do your homework beforehand.
Here are 15 ways to get mentally and emotionally prepared when you know you'll soon be far from home and your usual support systems.
Managing your mental health while studying abroad – whether or not you have a history of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions – is something every person must think about when going abroad.
Being away from usual stress at home can sometimes be a relief when abroad; experiencing new adventures can be a useful distraction. You will also have times when you feel confused, uncomfortable, annoyed, and many of the same emotions that you manage in your daily life at home.
It’s ten at night and I am sitting on the Seawall in Galway, Ireland. With my knees to my chest and my arms wrapped tight around my legs, I crouch on a low stone bench watching the last of the day’s fishermen pack up their coolers and head home. My gaze follows their slow procession as they vanish into the damp night. Then I feel the rain begin to fall.