Resource Library

Personal Story
Stephanie stands at the Great Wall of China path holding her white cane.

A Ripple Starts in China

Later, the two ran into one of her partner’s friends. Stephanie was walking with her cane, and her partner explained to the friend how and why Stephanie used it. Stephanie was delighted to let her partner do the talking.

“She repeated everything I had just told her. I was so excited—the ripple had started.”

Personal Story
Chart in graduation regalia

Accessing U.S. Studies to Advance Disability Rights in Thailand

Chart traveled to the United States from Thailand to get a Master's Degree in International Public Policy and Management from the University of Southern California (USC) with the support of the Ford Foundation’s International Fellowships Program (IFP). At the time, he just wanted to get the top-notch education that the American system would open up for him. Just what he would do with that master’s degree would come later.

Having grown up as a blind man in a small town about three hours from Bangkok, Chart knew what it was like to live in a place with limited resources.

Personal Story
Safira gardening as a volunteer with other exchange students

My Golden Year in America

I am 17 years old and an ASSE YES Exchange student from Karachi, Pakistan. I was very excited to get the opportunity to come to the United States of America. This was something that I prayed for and it was like a dream come true.

I am visually impaired and have had very little vision my entire life. In Pakistan, where I attended a school for the blind, there are many challenges and few opportunities for blind people. I’ve learned the opposite is true here in the U.S. What I’ve learned here [in the US] is more than I could possibly write about in a few short paragraphs.

Personal Story
Badri focused dipping a paintbrush and measuring stick into a pail of paint.

More than a Language

Badri Ghimire was born Deaf and grew up with three siblings who were also Deaf. His mother raised the kids on her own and always encouraged them to pursue their passion.

Badri’s passion is accounting and math, but he never thought he would have a chance to put that interest to work, especially in the United States (U.S.). Badri was accepted to the Global UGRAD program at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).

Personal Story
Muhammad gives two thumbs up as he gets set up on a recumbent bicycle.

Like Father, Like Son

When Muhammad, a U.S. Department of State-funded Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) student from Pakistan, first arrived in the United States, he had no idea what to expect. But, he brimmed with excitement at the opportunity to experience life in America. His exchange experience was unique because he would be experiencing true immersion in not just one, but two non-native languages: English and American Sign Language (ASL).

Personal Story
An aerial view of the RIT campus

Experiencing American Deaf Culture

Because I grew up in a small Greek city where I never socialized with other Deaf people, I never thought there were other people like me. From kindergarten through high school, I attended a mainstream school that didn’t provide support services, nor were teachers aware of Deaf culture and deafness. As a child, I didn’t really realize I was Deaf, despite being born with hearing loss too extensive to use hearing aids. Instead, I considered myself a person with a problem in my ears and difficulty interacting well with hearing people.

Personal Story
Group photo with Francis and three friends

In Search of a Different Career Path

Sitting in class with Deaf peers and a teacher signing in American Sign Language, I realized how fortunate I was to be at Ohlone College in Fremont, California.

There, I studied English and Math, made friends with Deaf international and American students, learned from signing instructors, and played on the college soccer team. What would I have done had I not come to the United States? When I finished high school in Zambia, I likely would have lived with a friend and tried finding odd jobs to get by.

Personal Story
Ambassador Kounalakis with Fulbright grantees Rita Hoffmann and Maria Flamich (Embassy photo by Attila Németh)

Berkeley Experiences in Three Acts

As Maria sang "Then you’ll spread your wings, And you’ll take the sky," by George Gershwin in Porgy and Bess, I realized that it would be a fitting motto of our Berkeley experience. What made me feel so? I will tell you. First, however, I should describe the inspiring scene of a relatively small group of people enjoying this famous lullaby, ”Summertime,” from George Gershwin’s opera, Porgy and Bess.

Personal Story
Marlon and several of his classmates display serious faces as they are seated on the stairs of their high school.

In a World Far from the Philippines

Flying from the Philippines to the U.S., I thought I would be learning about American traditions and pop culture as a Youth Exchange and Study (YES) student through the U.S. State Department and AFS Intercultural Programs. Surprisingly, I also learned about myself.

Of the forty-one Filipinos embarking on a journey as young ambassadors to the United States, three of us had disabilities, including me. This was the first time I met other people my age with disabilities.

Personal Story
A young Japanese man and three friends smile at the camera.

Beyond Stereotyping

Although I was born in a small, rural town in southwestern Japan, growing up I had an interest in foreign affairs. However, my family could not imagine that their son could travel outside of Japan.

Tipsheet
Wheelchair user on a lift from a bus

Disability Accommodations in International Contexts

What does the word, accommodations, mean to you as a person with a disability in the U.S.? What types of services and supports are generally recognized as accommodations for a particular disability?

While programs in some countries require a formal documentation process in order to provide disability accommodations according to local and/or national laws, programs in other countries might rely on your informal conversation with the program staff to find out about what you need and why.

Tipsheet
Bahraini and American young men wearing traditional head scarves

Strategies for Addressing Cultural Disability Differences

By your very presence, and by your active participation in an international exchange experience, you can help challenge negative perceptions. People with disabilities who have traveled abroad have tried a variety of strategies.

Tipsheet
A Bahraini man in cultural dress stands with an American man.

Cultural Differences in the U.S. and Abroad

Part of the wonders of traveling include experiencing other people's cultures, including their habits, values, interests, beliefs, and preferences. It takes time for any traveler to learn and adjust to differences in the host culture, and autistic travelers may want to research some specific ways in which the local host culture might impact their routines or preferences. Think about how you might adapt if you traveled to a country that had major cultural differences related to time and punctuality, leisure and schedules, and body language.

Tipsheet
A young American woman seated on a yak signs "I love you" in sign language.

Disability Culture Around the World

The experience of traveling to a different country can result in “culture shock” for anyone, disability or not! You might also experience an additional layer of cultural adjustment related to attitudes around disability. As an American traveler with a disability, you may experience positive and negative cultural disability differences.

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