“Do international students get extra time? Is being a non-native English speaker a disability?” This question comes up frequently from international students and disability service offices. At first thought, many offices would easily say “no” and “no." Should it be that easy?
Many academic departments and student service offices may initially assume that issues arise solely from being a non-native English speaker, but it may also mean that a disability is not recognized, and a second look should be given to these students.
Gohar Navasardyan is the only female athlete playing with the Pyunic Center for the Disabled’s wheelchair basketball team. She powers her chair across the court with strength and grace, as she does when she’s on the dance stage. Armenia doesn’t yet have a women’s wheelchair basketball team, but there is momentum to create new sport opportunities for people with disabilities across the nation, fueled by MIUSA’s U.S. Department of State sponsored Sports for Success professional exchange program.
Having a disability does not exempt participants from the terms of the code of conduct (sometimes called behavior agreements) or from experiencing consequences for violating the code.
Providing all participants with site-specific information about the services and support available abroad can reduce the likelihood that a participant with a disability will violate a code of conduct.
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.