The 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is this Sunday, July 26th. This important civil rights law prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the law is to make sure that people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.
In honor of this milestone, Gilman Alumnus Isaac Garcia (Netherlands, 2019) shared his story of studying abroad as a person with disabilities and his advice for other students with disabilities hoping to study or intern abroad.
Isaac writes, “I studied abroad in Amsterdam at the University of Amsterdam in the spring semester of 2019. All in all my study abroad experience was great. I traveled to 5 countries in 6 months and made amazing friends for life. Adjusting to the culture was a little bit difficult and shopping for groceries can be hard if you do not understand Dutch. The little pictures on packages helped out though. Being a disabled student abroad was quite difficult. I was under the impression that my university in the states would reach out to my host university and make sure all my accommodations were met. This was not the case. Even after I discussed my disabilities with my professors, it was not until nearly the end of my stay that I got my accommodations written in writing through the University of Amsterdam.
“If you are a disabled student going abroad first of all, congratulations. That is a huge accomplishment. If I had any suggestions I would look at all the different resources that you can utilize before your trip. Mobility international USA is an amazing organization that helps disabled students to make sure their needs are met abroad. Wish I would have known about them sooner. Advocate more for yourself and make sure that your university has done all that can possibly be done to ensure you have everything you need to succeed abroad. I think if you can have your home university connect you directly to your university abroad before you leave that would be a major benefit to anybody going abroad.
“The Americans with Disabilities Act is such an important piece of legislation for those of us who need extra assistance for any reason. The ADA helps us turn our disabilities into abilities without fear of discrimination. The ADA means that me and so many other incredible disabled people have a voice in society. With that being said I can’t help but be shocked that the ADA has only been around for 30 years. Advocacy for the ADA did not begin 30 years ago. People with disabilities have been fighting for these basic rights for years before 1990. While I am impressed that we have come a long way in disability inclusion, I recognize we have a long way to go to be truly equal in society. I thank the Gilman Scholarship for their constant effort to include individuals with disabilities abroad and domestically.”
The Gilman Scholarship is proud to support the Americans with Disabilities Act 30th Anniversary. Learn more about the ADA at data.org/national-network. Find resources for disability access to international exchange at MIUSA.org.