International high school and university exchange students with diverse disabilities travel to Eugene, Oregon each July and August, for an orientation prior to the start of their academic year in host communities across the United States. The students are all recipients of prestigious scholarships from the U.S.
"American school is so neat," signs Belvion, a Deaf exchange student from Mozambique who communicates using sign language. "They've got libraries and computers and the teachers are great. I'm loving it."
Belvion is one of the many high school students with disabilities who come to the United States every year to live and study on an exchange program. Are you ready to be an exchange student too?
Find out which organizations have recruited the most participants with disabilities to the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program!
YES Students with Disabilities by Disability Type (2007-2016), as shown on a pie chart.
35% Blind/Low Vision
19% Physical Disability
FLEX Students with Disabilities by Disability Type (2007-2016), as shown on a pie chart.
59% Physical Disability
29% Blind/Low Vision
Total Number of Students by Disability Type (2007-2016)
- 40% Physical Disability
- 32% Blind/ Low Vision
- 25% Deaf/HOH
- 2% Non-apparent
Students with Physical Disabilities
- 37% Cerebral Palsy
- 11% Scoliosis
- 7% Short Stature
- 8% Amputee
- 3% Spina Bifida
- 1% Polio
- 1% Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy
- 32% Other
Number of Students with Disabilities by Placement Organization (2007-2016)
Depicted as layers on an image of a pencil.
Percent of Deaf or Blind Students Placed at Specialized Schools vs. Mainstream Schools (2007-2016)
Illustrated by highlighted symbols of students and a schoolhouse
- 50% of students who are Deaf are placed at specialized schools vs. in mainstream public schools
- 25% of students who are blind are placed at specialized schools vs. in mainstream public schools
The Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) programs are competitive, merit-based scholarship programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Over the last ten years, more than 250 students with disabilities from 37 countries have participated these life-changing youth programs.
A line graph showing the total number of FLEX and YES Students with Disabilities, by Year, 2007-2016
Number of FLEX Students with Disabilities, by Year
2007 = 16
2008 = 14
2009 = 12
2010 = 12
2011 = 12
2012 = 14
2013 = 9
2014 = 20
2015 = 11
2016 = 14
In the United States, the vast majority of secondary students with disabilities are mainstreamed in inclusive high schools per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). First passed in 1975, the IDEA is a powerful landmark civil rights law that guarantees access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) appropriate to every child with a disability.
Before they arrive in the U.S. for a life-changing cultural immersion experience, prospective high school exchange students from around the world are expected to demonstrate their level of English ability, usually by taking a standardized test. Whichever test you use to assess your applicants, learn how to adapt it to fairly and accurately measure the skills of students with disabilities.