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Studying Away With a Disability

Students with disabilities can and do study away, and are encouraged to explore their options with their Study Away Advisor.  Concordia College and Global Learning are committed to facilitating welcoming and reasonably accessible study away programs, if possible, for students with disabilities.  For more information please see Concordia College's Policy for the Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Global Learning can provide information about possible accommodations and accessible facilities at various study sites and host institutions and their approximate cost. Keep in mind that the accessibility to various services and accommodations in other countries will be different (for better or for worse) to those you find in the United States.  We cannot guarantee that your away program will be able to accommodate all your needs.  For these reasons, you may find that some programs will not be a good fit.  However, with advanced notice and planning we will endeavor to make your program choice work for you.

Students who anticipate special needs should also contact the campus Counseling Center and speak with the Director of the Counseling Center and Disability Services for assistance and advice about participation on Global Learning programs. Every study away participant, disabled or non-disabled, needs contingency plans.

• What is a Disability?
• Funding
• What are the Essential Steps?
• Questions to Ask as You Prepare to Study Abroad
• Medication and Medical Care Abroad
• Resources

What is a Disability?
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an individual with a disability is a person who:

1.  Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
2.  Has a record of such impairment; or
3.  Is regarded as having such an impairment.

Disabilities can include, but are not limited to:

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders
ADD and ADHD are neurological conditions that affect learning and behavior.  People with a formal diagnosis of ADD/ADHD may have difficulties with information processing and concentration.

Learning Disabilities (LD)
Learning disabilities affect the manner in which individuals acquire, store, organize, retrieve, manipulate, and express information.  Areas affected by learning disabilities may include reading, writteor all three) and causes the individual distress and difficulty in functioning.  Examples of psychological disabilities include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Brain Injuries
A brain injury is damage caused by an internal or external trauma to the brain.  A brain injury may be caused by inflammation or swelling, bleeding, a blow to the head, or excessive force such as shaking or whiplash.  These traumas may result in cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional changes.

Chronic Systemic
Systemic disabilities are medical conditions that affect one or more major body systems.  These conditions constitute a disability if they significantly impact one or more major life activities, such as learning.  The effects and symptoms of these conditions vary greatly.  Examples of systemic conditions are cancer, asthma, HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, or diabetes.

Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing
The term 'deaf' refers to those individuals who are unable to hear well enough to rely on their hearing and use it as a means of processing information.  The term 'hard-of-hearing' refers to those who have some hearing, are able to use it for communication purposes, and who feel reasonably comfortable doing so.

Mobility Disabilities
Mobility impairments include a broad range of disabilities that affect a person's independent movement and cause limited mobility.  Examples of mobility impairments may include paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, quadriplegia, amputation, cerebral palsy, and arthritis.  Depending on the severity of the disability, individuals may have limitations related to stamina, manual dexterity, speech, and ability to stand or sit.

Blindness or Low Vision
Individuals are considered to be legally blind when they have less than 20/200 vision in the more functional eye or a very limited field of vision (20 degrees at its widest point).  Someone has low vision when they have decreased visual acuity or visual field that cannot be corrected with ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses, or medical or surgical procedures.
(adapted from NAFSA, "Education Abroad Advising to Students with Disabilities" 2009)

Funding
• Most financial aid can be applied to Global Learning programs. Many students find that the cost of going abroad is actually comparable to the on-campus costs.
• It is your responsibility to ensure that any funding required for special services abroad is arranged in advance.
• If funding and/or scholarships are not available, you will be responsible for all costs associated with the program.
• If you disclose needs at the last minute, or require accommodations that cannot be made available in the host country, you may be advised to postpone participation.
• There are no scholarships available directly through Concordia, but there are many other organizations that do provide scholarships for study away students.  Visit our scholarship page *insert link* to find out more.

What are the Essential Steps?
To determine what accommodations are possible, you, your campus disability office specialist, your Study Away Advisor, the Associate Dean of Global Learning, and the host institution will need to work together to assess your needs and possibilities for accommodations.

Explore reasonable accommodations
Learn what types of accommodations are possible in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
It is best for you to identify several programs that meet your personal and academic interests, since different locations will have different types or levels of accessibility.
Start a budget to cover accommodations and potential sources to cover your expenses.  Your Study Away Advisor can help indicate which accommodations may be more costly.

Early Disclosure
We encourage you to self disclose early. Talk with your Study Away Advisor and the Disabilities Coordinator about the kind of accommodations you will need. Your campus Study Away Advisor will work with the host institution to determine whether your accommodation needs can be met. Some accommodations may require a three- to six-months advance notice.

If you are not sure you will use accommodations abroad, it is still important to make potential needs known so that a plan is in place should an unexpected problem arise.

Advantages of Disclosure
• Advance preparation for your disability-related needs, including learning about available disability-related access or services and arranging or requesting reasonable accommodations in a timely manner. We encourage you to disclose early so Global Learning and on-site staff can research necessary logistics and accommodations, if available, to help you have a meaningful, rewarding, and safe experience.
• Connections with people in the host community with similar disabilities or to the community of people with disabilities as a whole. You can also find allies within program and disability services offices, the community of people with disabilities, teachers, administrators, and program staff to direct you towards resources such as funding, accommodations, and disability organizations.
• The opportunity to increase disability awareness, reverse negative stereotypes, and present positive models of disability to others.
• Reduction in stress that may come with trying to hide a disability, or in worrying who might assist if in a disability-related crisis situation.
• Being proactive about self-advocacy and communicating personal preferences and needs to those around you.

Planning Ahead
Research the accessibility of each site to determine which destinations best suit your academic and accommodation needs (see the disability sections below for questions to think about when planning). It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning will help.

Global Learning cannot guarantee that facilities and/or support services will be available at each location in the same range and quality as on Concordia’s campus. Your Study Away Advisor will consult closely with you to determine, from your perspective, what you need to have a successful study away experience.

Make a detailed list of your daily activities and note how any tasks that are affected by your disability are accomplished. For example, if you rely on a friend for assistance, what duties does that person perform, and how will those tasks be accomplished in a new, unfamiliar setting, and by someone who may be unfamiliar to you?

Among the resources available are study away returnees who can outline potential challenges and adventures of a host country. Also, visit Mobility International.

Flexibility
Study away requires adaptability for people with and without disabilities. Living in a new culture will differ.  Differences will include disability services, perceptions, and accessibility standards from what you are used to in the U.S. The key for any study away participant is flexibility.

Documentation
The Disability Coordinator in the Counseling Center, at the student's request, will write a letter documenting the disability and accommodations that student can receive, or is receiving on Concordia’s campus.  This is sent to the host university to assess whether similar accommodations can be arranged and the cost (if any) of such accommodations.

It is important for the student to bring a copy of medical documentation on their program, including treatment and medication prescription information. Make copies of all documentation that you submit.

Questions to Ask as You Prepare to Study Away

Processing Disabilities (ADD, ADHD, LD, Psychological, Brain injuries)
• Will you need note takers for class?
• What are your host university’s policies on extended exam time?
• Is the host university willing to authorize your usual test accommodations based on American medical documentation?
• What tutoring services might be available and at what cost?
• If you need to see a doctor or therapist for psychological concerns while away, have you established this contact prior to departure?
• Have you considered bringing a personal recording device for lectures? Do you have permission to record lectures?
• Are books available on tape or CD?

• Are lab or library assistants available in your host country?
• Who will fund any special accommodations?

Chronic Systemic Disorders
• If you have respiratory problems or severe allergies, what is the air and environmental quality in the city you are considering?
• If your condition is affected by temperatures, what is the climate in your prospective host city?
• What prior notification has been given to the instructors regarding potential absences should your condition flare up unexpectedly?
• Will you need extended time on assignments?
• If you normally receive test accommodations, do you have authorization through the host university to receive the same accommodations there?
• What special dietary considerations might you have?
• If there are extra expenses associated with special accommodations, who will fund these?

Deaf or Hard of Hearing
• Will you need an interpreter or real time captioning? Who will fund this accommodation?
• Where/how will the interpreter be hired?
• What is the hourly rate for interpreters in the host country? (Note that interpreter costs vary widely from country to country and within the same country.)
• Does the interpreter know American Sign Language? Sign language is not universal and may differ between countries that have the same spoken language. Students should find out the differences before leaving. It may be possible to depart early to learn the new sign language.
• If you are taking a personal FM system, can you obtain batteries in your host country that work for your device?
• Who will notify your instructor of the need to wear the FM microphone?
• Will you need a note taker?
• Are captioned videos available?
• Who will fund other special accommodations?

Mobility Disabilities
• Will you take one or two wheelchairs? Electric or manual?
• Do you need a transformer? Is the voltage in your host country compatible with your transformer?
• How will you ship your chairs abroad?
• Where can your chair be repaired abroad?
• Do you need to make additional arrangements to get from the airport to the orientation site or to your host university?
• Are the streets and/or sidewalks paved or cobblestone? Are there curb cuts for wheelchair access?
• What is the accessibility of the host university and city (elevators, bathrooms, classrooms, housing, transportation, etc.)?
• What kind of field trips might your program go on? Are they accessible?
• Who will fund any special accommodations?

Blindness or Low Vision
• Have you contacted the consulate of your host country to determine if you will need to put your guide dog in quarantine?
• Will special housing or food arrangements be necessary for your dog? Is your dog allowed into the classroom?
• Are alternate formats available? (books on tape, Braille, e-text, scanning, CCTV, etc.).
• Will you need a mobility assistant to help you?
• Have you obtained maps of your host city and enlarged them to become familiar with directions before departure?
• What kind of test accommodations will you need?
• Is there Braille signage on buildings, elevators, classroom, ATMs, etc.?
• Will you have access to computer software in order to write papers or read assignments?

• Is voice recognition software available?
• Will you need note takers, scribes or transcribers?

• Who will fund any special accommodations?

Medication and Medical Care
Before departure, students should consult and have a plan in place with a physician or the travel clinic at their campus Student Health Services about medication management and medical care needs while abroad.

Call Concordia’s Insurance Provider before departure from the U.S.  If you take medication, you should inquire if your prescription is legal and available in the host country, or if you will be able to take an extra supply of medication that will last during your stay.  Also call if you will need a doctor or psychologist referral while abroad.  Concordia's insurance provider is EIIA, Frontier MEDEX, at +1(410)453-6330. Your policy number is 352191.  Policy coverage information can be found here.

Personal Assistants
If you are traveling with a personal assistant you must make sure the person has the necessary passport, visa, documentation, insurance, and immunizations for traveling and living abroad. Where will he or she live? (Some programs can only accommodate students.) What kind of funding will he or she need? If you will need to hire an assistant while away, find out before departure what steps are needed and what funding will support this cost.

Resources
Abroad With Disabilities
Mobility International U.S.A. (MIUSA)

If you have any questions about studying away with a disability, please contact Global Learning at 218-299-3927 or global@cord.edu.