MAKING ACADEMIC TRAVEL PROGRAMS INCLUSIVE FOR STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES
Academic travel programs provide a unique opportunity for students to explore new cultures, learn different ways of thinking, and gain valuable insights that can help them succeed in their academic and professional careers. Unfortunately, many academic travel programs are not designed for students with disabilities. This can make it difficult for these students to participate fully in the program and may even prevent them from participating.
A disability is any condition of the body or mind (impairment) that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities (activity limitation) and interact with the world around them (participation restrictions).
Let’s explore ways to make academic travel programs more inclusive for students with disabilities. We will discuss these students’ challenges and provide practical solutions that program administrators can implement to create a more welcoming and accommodating environment.
The first step in making academic travel programs more inclusive for students with disabilities is to understand the challenges that they may face. These challenges include physical barriers such as inaccessible buildings and transportation options, communication barriers, and lack of appropriate accommodations. Program managers and trip leaders need to be aware of these challenges and work to address them proactively.
One of the most important things we can do to make academic travel programs more inclusive is to provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities. Understanding the challenges ahead of time, whether mobility challenges or accommodating service animals in places where they are not common to see, will help ensure that all students can participate fully in the program seamlessly.
Educating Staff, service providers, and corporate partners
Another important aspect of making academic travel programs more inclusive is by discussing ahead of time and making everyone aware of students’ challenges and how to work with students with disabilities. This includes internal training on how to communicate, address, and support these students on the ground, providing information on assisting students with physical disabilities, and offering guidance on creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. This extends not only to the program coordinators, but also to those who will be part of the program, like bus drivers, restaurant staff and host companies, to mention a few.
Offering Extra Support
In addition to the preparation to accommodate their participation, program managers can also offer support services for students with disabilities once on the ground. Having constant check-ins through the program to ensure the experience is going smoothly for them and making any necessary adjustments in a timely manner can go a long way to make the overall experience more enjoyable. By offering this extra support, program coordinators and trip leaders can help students with disabilities feel more included and supported during their academic travel experience.
Creating a Welcoming Environment
Finally, one of the key elements of making academic travel programs more inclusive for students with disabilities is creating a welcoming environment. This could include various strategies, such as creating marketing materials that feature diverse groups of students, using inclusive language in all program materials, and considering the accessibility of all program activities and events, welcome letters, and signage.
Ultimately, creating an inclusive academic travel program requires understanding the challenges that students with disabilities may face, providing appropriate accommodations, educating team members and staff, offering support services, and creating a welcoming environment. By implementing these strategies, we ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from the learning and networking opportunities offered on an academic travel program. Making these changes will benefit not only students with disabilities but also the entire program as a whole, as it will create a more diverse, inclusive, and enriching experience for all involved.
8 DO’S AND DON’TS FOR BEHAVIOR AROUND A SERVICE DOG TEAM