Students with Disabilities
CISaustralia is an equal opportunity organisation and does not discriminate on any basis – race, colour, creed, gender, ideology, religion, economic status, age or ethnic background.
This policy has been guided by, referenced to and developed in recognition of the following key government departments, institutions and Acts:
- Disability Services Australia (DSA)
- Disability Services – Queensland
- The Australian Human Rights Commission
- NAFSA Guide to Advising Students with Disabilities
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- The Disability Services Office at the University of Minnesota
What Is a Disability?
A disability is broadly defined within the Disability Discrimination Act to include physical, intellectual, sensory, neurological and psychiatric disabilities, as well as including people who may have a disease and people with an imputed disability (i.e., being treated as if you have a disability). People like relatives, friends and carers are also protected if they are discriminated against because of their association with a person with disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
It is important to remember that a student’s disability may be visible or invisible. Those with a visible disability can include a wheelchair user, someone who is blind or someone who is an amputee. Invisible disabilities include a hearing impairment, attention deficit disorder (ADD), diabetes, learning disabilities and mental health disorders.
The Disability Services Office at the University of Minnesota provides a useful description of some of the most common visible and invisible disabilities and includes typical accommodations that are often needed for each type of disability. This information can help education advisers proactively plan for requests that may arise.
- Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: ADHD is a neurological condition that affects learning and behaviour. People with a formal diagnosis of ADHD may have difficulties with information processing and concentration.
- Autism Spectrum Disorder: ASD is a developmental disability that is characterized by social interaction deficits, impaired communication skills, restricted interests and stereotyped patterns of behaviour. People with this disability may have difficulty with understanding social cues, breaks in routines, fine motor skills, stress management and sensitivity to environmental stimuli.
- Blind and Low Vision: Few individuals are totally blind; many individuals have some useful vision that can be utilised through the use of adaptive devices. Individuals are considered to be legally blind when they meet specific criteria for their vision loss. 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.
- Brain Injury: 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, behavioural and emotional changes.
- 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 5 hearing refers to those who have some hearing, are able to use it for communication purposes, and who feel reasonably comfortable doing so.
- Head Injuries: Some head injuries result in cognitive and behavioural impairments. A head injury may affect one or more of the following areas: information processing, memory, communication, motor skills and other sensory, physical and psychosocial abilities.
- Learning Disability: LD affects the manner in which individuals acquire, store, organise, retrieve, manipulate and express information. Areas affected by LD may include reading, written expression and math. People with learning disabilities may also experience difficulty with organisational skills, time management or social/interpersonal skills.
- Mobility Impairments: 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.
- Psychiatric: A psychiatric disability or mental illness is a health condition that impacts an individual’s thinking, feelings or behaviour (or all three) and causes the individual distress and difficulty in functioning. Examples of a psychiatric disability include major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder.
- 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.
The Disability Services Office at the University of Minnesota provides a useful guide (as below) to advising students with disabilities. CISaustralia advising / counselling staff will follow the guidelines in close coordination with the appropriate Australian University partner and our overseas partner.
Advising Students with Disabilities
- Students should be registered with their disability services office on campus so that this office can review disability documentation and participate in discussions about accommodations abroad. This ensures that the education abroad office is not in the sole position of determining what kinds of accommodations are appropriate for a particular student’s disability needs.
- Education abroad offices should encourage disability disclosure so that the student and the adviser can consider disability needs as early in the advising process as possible.
- Although it is important to foster early disclosure, this information should not be used to disqualify an applicant and should not be requested on an application form. A student should be accepted to a program based on the standard program eligibility requirements, and the question of disability accommodation is best pursued after acceptance. Students do sometimes bring up issues related to disability before acceptance, and advisers should not avoid these questions but should be knowledgeable about how to make sure this information is kept separate from the admissions decision.
- When reviewing a student’s application, it can be helpful to keep in mind a student’s disability status and any accommodations that have been provided. A student may have had a reduced course load, for example, as part of a disability accommodation, or a student may have had a difficult semester academically before recognising the need for and receiving appropriate disability accommodations on campus. Clarifying these circumstances with a student during the application review process can be helpful in interpreting the student’s application and identifying potential disability accommodation needs overseas.
The NAFSA Guide to Advising Students with Disabilities provides a range of additional references, advice, scenarios and pre-departure material suggestions.
CISaustralia is primarily guided by our overseas partner policies in relation to disability services – in close coordination with our Australian partner institutions. For all our study programs we will be guided by our overseas partner’s University policies, facilities and services. For our internships we will guided by our partner organisation’s policies, facilities and services. For our volunteer partners we will guided by our partner’s (NGO, social enterprises, registered charities) policies, facilities and services. All decisions are made in partnership with our local (study, intern, volunteer) provider, and always with the best interest of the student’s health, safety and wellbeing in mind. Every opportunity will be afforded for any student with a disability to attend a CISaustralia program.
The tools, comments, references and resources developed above are designed to assist CISaustralia staff advise and support related students with disabilities as appropriately as possible, communicate effectively with our Australian partner Universities and overseas partners and providing them with the information and tips they will need to have a successful mobility experience abroad.
CISaustralia is open to appropriate comments in relation to how we can improve our communications and services for students with disabilities. For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.