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About Support for Participants with DisabilitiesPolicy Information:
It is as important to provide support for students with disabilities who participate in study abroad as it is to provide support for them on their U.S. home campuses. Each student’s situation requires review and an assessment of a program’s ability to provide support.
According to Ganz and Eastman in NAFSA’s Guide to Education Abroad for Advisers and Administrators, 2nd ed., advisors need “special counsel and experience to advise students with physical disabilities” (p. 188). Administrators should consider consulting professionals with expertise in this area such as, Mobility International USA and University of Minnesota’s Access Abroad. They should be familiar with the legal requirements instituted by the Americans with Disabilities Act and be able to give students a fairly accurate sense of the realities abroad. There are also cross-cultural issues related to disability to consider. According to Building Bridges: A Manual on Including People with Disabilities in International Programs by Mobility International USA, "perceptions about people with disabilities vary from country to country... Each culture has different roles and expectations for people with disabilities as well. In many places, people with disabilities are not seen as vital, important members of society... It may take extra effort and preparation for a participant with a disability to adjust to cultural perceptions in a host country"(p. 37). University of Minnesota’s Access Abroad recommends that administrators attempt to find “persons with similar disabilities in that culture to see how they address physical, informational and attitudinal barriers.”
While some administrators may be used to arranging access abroad for their physically disabled student participants, many neglect to consider those student participants with learning disabilities. Eve Leons of Landmark College wrote an article entitled “Creating a Safe Environment for Students with Learning Disabilities on Study Abroad Programs” that administrators might find helpful.Sample Forms:
- Accommodations for Students with Disabilities – Voluntary Self-Identification Form Syracuse University
- Mobility International USA
- SAFETI Online Newsletter: Creating a Safe Environment for Students with Learning Disabilities on Study Abroad Programs
- SAFETI Online Newsletter: The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange: Opening Doors to International Opportunities
- University of Minnesota: Access Abroad
- University of Nevada Las Vegas Study Abroad Handbook: Students with Disabilities
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Travelers with Disabilities