Dispelling Four Myths About People With Disabilities Studying in the U.S.

Are you or someone with a disability you know interested in studying in the U.S., but unsure about what to expect? Since the ratification of the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in 2008, people with disabilities have been uniting for equal access in all sectors of society
and lives free from discrimination. Education for people with disabilities worldwide is improving, and so are opportunities to take advantage of study
in the U.S. Learn more about reality versus stereotype on studying in the United States as a person with a disability.

1. As an international student, I will not be covered by U.S. laws.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990 to protect the rights of people with disabilities from discrimination. Students with
disabilities from other countries studying in the U.S. or in the U.S. application process are also protected from discrimination by the ADA.

U.S. universities are required to provide equal access to education, and will pay for and provide some disability-related services (called “reasonable accommodations”) to remove barriers and make participation equitable for students with disabilities. Common examples of accommodations include extra test-taking time, ramps, sign language interpreters, note takers, or Braille documents. If students are offered on-campus housing or transportation, then similar accommodations may be provided to ensure that housing is accessible and transportation is wheelchair-friendly.

However, the school is not required to provide reasonable accommodations that are considered personal, such as a personal assistant or guide for daily living tasks or adaptive equipment like wheelchairs or hearing aids.

2. Things will be the same for me in the United States as they are at home.

While studying in the United States you may feel very far away from the people who usually provide you with support. You may find that you are expected to function more independently than you are used to. Use this as an opportunity to grow as an individual.

People with disabilities in the United States are expected to do as much as possible on their own, and to be self-advocates. This means asking for assistance from others when you need it, and making your own decisions about your daily life. For a student who is blind, this may mean learning how to use a long cane for independently navigating your new environment, and asking for orientation to unfamiliar places. It takes courage to travel and live in a new community, so if you are nervous then ask your school if you can speak with a student who already attends the school and has a disability similar to yours.

Your health care may also change while in the United States. Many U.S. universities require all students to either use health insurance they provide or
to provide proof of their own insurance. If your school requires you to purchase insurance, ask about how this medical insurance will cover your disability related to pre-existing conditions and prescriptions.

3. If I tell my school I have a disability everyone will know.

You are not required to tell your school about your disability. If you choose to disclose your disability, then U.S. privacy laws require your school to
keep this information confidential. This means that they will not tell any other student or faculty about your disability unless it is necessary to arrange
your accommodations (for example, they will need to inform a professor who will be working with a sign language interpreter or a housing director making changes to a dormitory room).

It is best to disclose your disability to your school after you are accepted. And, if you are requesting services, you may need to provide proof of your
disability from a doctor to the university disability services office.

4. I should apply to a special university for people with disabilities.

All universities in the United States are open to people with disabilities. There are some schools that may be better equipped to support people with specific disabilities, such as Gallaudet University for Deaf and hard of hearing students. Your first goal in finding a university should be to find one that fits your interests and career goals.

The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE) http://www.miusa.org/ncde

Sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State, and administered by Mobility International USA, the NCDE provides advice and resources for people with disabilities planning to study in the United States, and consultation for placement organizations and colleges/universities on specific issues to make the experience inclusive.


Olivia Emilia, National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange

Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 June 2010 11:35  

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