Grant funds study on equal access for education abroad opportunities

The U.S. Department of State’s USA Study Abroad branch within the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and World Learning selected a proposal by the Office of International Affairs Executive Director Charles Reilly and Education Abroad Coordinator Becca Aburakia-Einhorn to fund a *grant for $34,515 to conduct a year-long study on best practices in providing access to college students who are deaf, deafblind, and hard of hearing in participating in education abroad.

According to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors survey, 1,078,822 students in the U.S. higher education system studied abroad during the 2016-2017 academic year -- up 35,000 from the previous year. As study abroad experiences become a requirement for certain majors or programs -- and in many cases a career boosters -- it is essential that these international opportunities become accessible to all. 

It is not clear to what extent the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to U.S. students with disabilities who are studying abroad. Currently, many large study abroad providers that American colleges and universities partner with require blind students to pay for their own personal assistants and deaf students to pay for their own interpreters. This makes formal education abroad opportunities inaccessible for many students and therefore creates inequality. In addition, current literature on making study abroad accessible often lumps all disabilities together, when, in fact, there is a great deal of variation in accommodations needed, the ability and cost of providing these accommodations, and a host country’s laws and cultures with respect to disabilities. 

The project will strengthen the capacity of colleges and universities nationwide to overcome obstacles that currently frustrate these students’ aspirations to make global learning a part of their college experience. As the nation’s leading institution of lifelong learning by d/db/hoh people, Gallaudet will help bring “best in class” thinking about inclusive education abroad to the attention of American universities and resource centers, and beyond.

Dr. Reilly and Aburakia-Einhorn’s grant, one of 21 projects selected for funding from 121 proposals, is a part of the Capacity Building for U.S. Study Abroad Program initiative. Grant winners were announced at the NAFSA: Association of International Educators 2019 Annual Conference and Expo on May 28 in Washington, D.C., the biggest international education conference in the world.

*Funding for the Capacity Building project, SECAGD-18CA0068, “An Interactive Guide to Accessible Education Abroad for Deaf, Deafblind, and Hard of Hearing College Students,” comes from the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The total award given to World Learning for all grantees, $1,797,900, is 100 percent federally funded.