“If I expect the program to fully include me, then I need to provide them with as much information as possible," says Betsy Valnes, who has a brain injury and has participated in several overseas programs. "In my experience, people are more understanding about my need to excuse myself for a while if they know my reasons for fatigue."
Help smooth the transition abroad for by implementing these inclusive ideas into the structure of a group exchange program. These tips, adapted from Autism Network International, can benefit exchange participants who are on the autism spectrum as well as those who are neurotypical.
Will you be welcoming an autistic exchange student or participant on your program for the first time? Great! Brush up on your understanding of neurological differences, respectful language and related lingo so you can advise your participant with confidence.
Through the use of a variety of accommodations, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals participate fully in a variety of international exchange experiences. No individual is completely alike - the accommodations that prove useful for one individual may not be relevant to others due to variations in hearing levels, identity, and communication preferences. When immersed in a new culture, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals can struggle with new accents, languages, and listening environments. Learn some of the most commonly used accommodations.
When Annie Reifsnyder became an Area Coordinator for CCI Greenheart, a non-profit organization that places international high school exchange students in the United States, she found a way to connect with students from around the world.
One Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) student from Russia in particular caught her attention. “I received Natasha’s bio and was kind of enamored by it,” Reifsnyder says. “I just thought how neat, how cool, how amazing, obviously a student who wanted to come to the U.S., but one who is blind.”
A qualified student, regardless of where the student is living when applying, cannot be refused admissions based on disability or anticipated accommodation needs.
Most disability service staff on campus or in the school district and disability organizations in the community can locate and provide what is needed for the student though it may take time, funds, and energy to find a good match for the student in regards to accommodation needs. The student may want to choose schools based on what is already available on campus and in the community.
When Stan Sowers, the principal of Eustace High School, learned that a blind exchange student would be spending a year at his school, he was apprehensive. His first thought was, “Oh, my goodness, why would we want to take on something like that, you know?”
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.
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.
At a recent study abroad conference over 250 professionals chose to attend our panel session on mental health. Why was there so much interest?
People attended our session largely to find out how to avert or deal with a crisis. After we did our best to relieve some of their uncertainty and shared suggestions for improving the design and preparations of study abroad programs, we had a chance to end with this message:
For every student with a mental health-related disability who experiences a crisis abroad, many more will succeed.
Disabled or not, all international travelers have experienced the awkwardness of being different or standing out in a new country. A person with a disability may also experience other cultural attitudes because of their disability.
Such experiences can be confusing, frustrating, or empowering. By their very presence and active participation in your exchange program, people with disabilities can challenge their own and others' perceptions.
Match your best intentions with best practices! Successfully include someone with a disability in your international program.
When a prospective or accepted international exchange participant with a disability contacts you, how can you be a knowledgeable and approachable advisor? We have developed tipsheets you can use to build your capacity for access and inclusion as well as disability assessment forms and guiding questions that you can use to get valuable details from the individual.
While each situation is different, the process is straightforward: