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International/Travel Programs FAQ

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Q. BLINDNESS: How can a student who is blind navigate in a foreign place?

A. That depends on the student, the nature and length of the trip, and the destination. When in doubt, it is best to ask the student what, if any, assistance will be needed. If the student is traveling in a group, other members of the group may volunteer to serve as sighted guides when necessary. Traveling with a sighted partner is helpful but some students are comfortable navigating and asking for direction on their own. If accommodations are needed, the student can work with your campus disabled student services office to locate resources and develop a plan.

Q. INTERNATIONAL ACCESS BARRIERS: What access barriers do students with disabilities face when traveling internationally?

A. Academic and daily life in a foreign country can introduce new challenges that may require different accommodations and compromises in independence. Accommodations and needs will vary greatly depending on the needs of the student and the travel destination. During the planning process, research the access issues in the country to which the student will travel. Provide the student with essential information to build realistic expectations for a successful experience.

Q. INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL ACCOMMODATIONS: What accommodations do students with disabilities need when traveling abroad?

A. Students who study abroad will generally require similar academic accommodations that they have used on their home campuses. However, the following areas will require additional consideration: 1) architectural barriers (many countries do not have the same architectural accessibility requirements as the United States), 2) transportation barriers, 3) technology access and 4) socio-cultural differences. The student, the disability services counselor, and an international study/education abroad program advisor should plan the experience together to develop realistic goals and expectations.

Q. CIVIL RIGHTS ABROAD: Are students studying abroad protected by the ADA?

A. While the ADA has improved access to public transportation, travel accommodations, and other public and private facilities in the United States, these requirements are not consistent worldwide. The student who travels to a foreign county must be prepared to cope with potential barriers. Developing self-advocacy skills, making local contacts in the host country, as well as practicing and role-playing "what if" scenarios can help prepare the student for potential problems.

Q. ACCESSING EXCHANGE OPPORTUNITIES: How can program staff encourage students with disabilities to access international exchange opportunities?

A. A recent survey was done to find out what happens when people with disabilities contact an international exchange or disability organization in search of information on studying, interning, or volunteering overseas. Twenty-six organizations were contacted by callers with various disabilities and asked 15 specific questions based on the callers' own interests and disability. The results suggested the following practices were most helpful to encourage individuals with disabilities to participate in international exchange programs:

  • Brainstorming the possibilities with the individual to show that the organization was willing to work with them.

  • Using a structured form or process that showed the organization had been proactive in planning to receive disability-related or international exchange-related questions.

  • Providing useful referrals (e.g., accurately describing the services and resources offered by Mobility International USA/National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange when referring the caller to MIUSA/NCDE).

  • Following the TTY or relay service etiquette when receiving a call from a hard of hearing or deaf caller.

Source: National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), Mobility International USA.

For answers to more questions, search the Knowledge Base.