News & Press: Articles

Disability Studies Abroad

Friday, October 18, 2019  
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By: Julia Karpicz, MA
PhD Student in Higher Education and Organizational Change at UCLA

How is disability constructed across cultures? How do these constructions shape the lives, cultures, histories, and politics of disabled and non-disabled communities around the world?

As an interdisciplinary academic field, Disability Studies “examines the concept of disability as a social, cultural, and political phenomenon” (University of Utah). Over the past two decades, more than forty North American colleges and universities have created Disability Studies programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In recent years, several universities have also begun offering study abroad programs with a comparative focus on disability, access, and culture. For students with an interest in Disability Studies, Deaf Studies, and/or Disability Culture, this blog post will introduce a few opportunities to explore disability-related themes in a global context. Please note the list below is not exhaustive and study abroad offerings can change throughout the year.

China: Disability in a Global Context
New York University, Summer 2018, Graduate-level
“This course explores the implications of disability in global contexts with varying levels of industrialization. It examines how local public and private sectors, including schools, hospitals, markets, or transportation systems, affect the lives of people with disabilities in Shanghai, China.”
Tanzania: Disability & Culture in Tanzania
Georgia College, Summer 2018, Undergraduate-level
“Explore the geography and culture of one of Africa’s most stable and culturally diverse nations through the lens of disability. Observe and volunteer at local schools and community centers serving individuals with disabilities. Experience life with the Maasai as you learn about their cultural understanding of disabilities.”

Japan: Studying Disability in Japan and the U.S.: A Comparative Approach to Laws, Policies, and Perspectives
Syracuse University, Summer 2018, Undergraduate-level
“Travel to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima to compare Japan and the United States under a disability studies lens. You will draw on a number of disciplines, including policy, law, and education, for a close-up look at policies and practices in Japan.”

Note: At the time of writing, the following programs have been offered for at least two consecutive years, but do not yet have available information for 2018 offerings.

Ireland: Culture and Disability
Penn State University, Summer 2017, Undergraduate-level (PSU-Only)
“Throughout the program students will be comparing attitudes and stigma toward people with disabilities as well as policies, services and resources that exist in the U.S. and Ireland.” Recipient of the GoAbroad – Innovative New Program Award in 2016.

India: Disability in Limited Resource Settings (Exploration Seminar)
University of Washington, Fall 2017, Undergraduate-level
“This study abroad program addresses disability within low and middle income countries. Using India as a cultural, political and socioeconomic context, students will explore a wide range of issues related to disability including prevalence and demographics, measurement, access and barriers to health care and rehabilitation, availability of assistance and support, accessibility of built environments and information technologies, and access and barriers to education and employment.”

Sign Language and Deaf Culture

Deaf culture can be defined as “a set of learned behaviors of a group of people who are deaf and who have their own language (ASL), values, rules, and traditions” (Gallaudet University). Students who are interested in comparative sign language and Deaf culture studies, are encouraged to explore the programs included below. For more information about organizations, schools, and programs that are involved with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing community, please see the Mobility International USA article, “Deaf International Exchange Opportunities.”

United Kingdom: Comparative Sign Language

University of Pittsburgh, Summer 2018, Undergraduate-level
“This four week, six credit program, based in the heart of London, will give you the opportunity to examine the differences in British and American Sign Languages as well as British and American Deaf Culture. Designed for students who have completed at least ASL 0002 (by the start of the program), you'll have the opportunity to practice your ASL skills both in and out of the classroom - the program is ‘voice off.’”

Deaf Culture, History, and Sign Language in France
University of Rochester, Summer 2018, Undergraduate-level
“The American Sign Language (ASL) Program at the University of Rochester offers a unique study abroad experience in France during the summer for Deaf and hearing college-level ASL students and professionals. This two-week program gives ASL users an opportunity to learn French Sign Language and French Deaf culture in a formal setting and further their understanding of the international Deaf world.”