As Seen in Transitions Abroad Magazine Jul/Aug 2001
| Young Adults with Disabilities Explore World
In her junior year of college, Rhonda, who uses below-the-knee prosthesis on both legs, spent five months in Costa Rica with the Massachusetts-based School for Field Studies. She participated in the Sustainable Development Studies program where she did field work in the mountainous rainforest. The coursework provided rich and valuable experience and knowledge. The broader experiencethe relationships Rhonda formed within her group, with her host family, and within the communitychallenged her and fostered a new awareness of who she is and the role she wants to have in this world.
Rhonda wasted no time getting out to meet people in the village. When children gathered around her to ask questions about her legs, she sat with them and showed them how she put her legs on and took them off. It was an opportunity to for the children to learn to appreciate difference and to dispel some of the apprehension and stigma about disability. Rhondas openness and authenticity allowed her to become an accepted and valued member of the community for the months she called it home.
Rhonda has since participated in other international exchange programs, worked in the exchange field, and traveled extensively in several countries. She plans to attend law school, where shell continue to pursue her passion for the environment, community development, and cultural understanding. Many other people with all types of disabilities have taken on the challenge of studying, volunteering, or interning abroad. Fortunately, there are now numerous resources like this one to assist in planning and having a successful and meaningful international experience.
People with disabilities are not limited to only those organizations that have already had disabled participants. Be a trail blazer! The disability organizations list on the facing page can be excellent contacts in learning about accessibility, the availability of services, and a source of friendship and enriched cultural experience.
Tips for Outreach to Youth with Disabilities
Here are a few simple ideas to begin or enhance outreach to youth with disabilities and make programs more welcoming. To discuss these ideas further or get more information, contact the National Clearing-house on Disability and Exchange (above).
* Include photographs and comments of youth with different kinds of disabilities in your publicity materialsthis sends a message that they are welcome.
* Advertise your programs through local or national disability organizationsmost have newsletters and/or web sites.
* Make your information available in alternative formats such as on cassette, diskette, or in large print.
* Get lists of local sign language interpreters for interviews and orientation meetings.
* A basic, sturdy ramp can be built where there are one or two steps into a home or building or between different rooms.
* Bathrooms and bedrooms in a dorm or homestay can be made accessible by temporarily removing the doors and hanging a curtain in their place.
* Web sites can be made accessible to people with disabilities. Contact the Web Accessibility Initiative for more information at email@example.com or visit their web site at www.w3.org. Submit your web site to be assessed for accessibility for free at www.cast.org/bobby.
* Organizations that provide international alternative travel opportunities can recruit individuals with disabilities as volunteers, staff, and board members.
* For more information on accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act, contact the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund at 800-466-4232 (voice/TTY) or on the web at www.dredf.org.
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