Anda di halaman 1dari 15

Rethinking the norm:


Hannah Taieb, Resident Director, CIEE France

On welcoming a student who uses a wheelchair

The Resident Directors perspective

Since Emmas participation in our program I keep looking for accessibility everywhere I go. When I used the wheelchair to go from the house to the University, I realized the huge amount of obstacles obstacles that people with full mobility capacity wouldnt even suspect. I clearly remember the gaze of people when I took the metro: le regard des autres !

Daniel Audaz, CIEE Rennes

Emma was the leader of the group. She knew how to gather a group around her. The profs, the host families, all said it was the best group they every had.

On welcoming a student who uses a wheelchair

The professors perspective

I wanted to handle the Chanels disability in the most neutral way possible, but without denying it, either. My first reaction was fear of not being up to the task! During our first outing, the students were grouped in a semi-circle around me I was explaining something and my gaze was sweeping the eyes of the students around me to capture their attention. Suddenly I realized my gaze was moving from left to right and back again, always at the same level, passing over Chanels head as she sat in her wheelchair ! I immediately corrected my aim so that as my gaze moved back and forth, I dropped my eyes to meet the eyes of the student 4

Delia Mellado, French professor

On welcoming a student with speech difficulties

The professors perspective

Its a group learning experience in patience. We work better together with the student in the class. Its a plus to slow down, its beneficial for the whole class. Theres like a subculture around this young person, in the class a group culture.

Lucie Laureillard, French professor and student wellbeing coordinator

On welcoming a Deaf student with interpreters

The professors perspective

My initial reaction was one of apprehension I imagined a situation where my control/authority might be undermined, where I lacked the necessary skills. This reaction gave way to a sense of curiosity, almost of opportunity at the idea of a new experience and, then, to a sense of welcome challenge. I felt a certain leveling effect, a return to basics and what is essential - the relationship on a human level, rather than on a strictly intellectual level, between the professor and the student. Because of her disability, Lori was more clearly at the centre of my focus, and this direct, physical, more attentive approach with students is something teachers should not lose sight of in the classroom. So, possibly, a greater awareness of the importance of openness and accessibility for all students on the part of the teacher.

Derek ORegan, Literature professor

The professors perspective

At no time throughout the course did I sense that this class was essentially different from any other for the other students. They did seem somewhat reserved initially, but it is difficult to say that this was due to the presence of Lori and the interpreters But, if this was the reason, they adapted quickly. I did feel that they had a greater respect for those who were speaking and a greater capacity to listen to others. Having a deaf student in one's class is not only not problematic, but can be rewarding as an experience in human exchange. The teacher is reminded of the equal importance of all students in a class, whatever their natural aptitude and intellectual capacity. He is reminded that a successful class is one which is successful for everyone, where all are included, and where the teacher is mindful of remaining open and accessible to all.

The best friends perspective

Oddly enough, it is still sometimes difficult for me to remember that Chris has AspergersKnowing Chris has definitely enabled me to remember that there is a story behind people and it is best to find out what that is before jumping to conclusions. Spending time interacting with Chris in the French social environment definitely did open my mind. I looked at how I struggled interacting and fitting into the French culture, I cant imagine what it is like for him as he struggles to fit in everywhere. It was .. the travel experience with Chris that opened my eyes the most as we had to work on our communication and use each others strengths... We had a couple of problems on our travels as we both needed to find a balance of knowing when to help each other and knowing when to keep our distance. It was one of the most comforting things in the world to have 8 someone I could trust as a travel companion.

The best friends perspective

We were arriving to Venice late in the evening ...the bus driver at the airport flat-out refused to take us since the bus was not equipped with a ramp, nor a handicapped spot. He also dissuaded other willing passengers from helping us on, as he did not want to be liable incase of an accident... Emma swiftly transferred herself out of her wheelchair onto the buss stairs and bumped herself up each step into the aisle, and finally into a seat. After that, no one could really say anything, could they? Logistically, the inclusion of Emma did not change anything about the program In other ways, I think that the inclusion of Emma absolutely changed the program for other students. Emma is a dynamic and an exceptional individual who has a personality that people want to be around. She minimizes her disability to the smallest possible degree. Meeting and having a shared experience with someone like that, who has and does face obstacles very different from your own, with such an amazing attitude, 9 was unexpected and inspiring for other students.

The effects of inclusion

Obvious effects: greater understanding for staff, professors and students of issues of access and disability The gaze, where to look when speaking to a Deaf person and interpreters or to a group including people in a wheelchair Greater understanding of prejudice, of differences between our own societies and others in terms of understanding of health, the body, ethical issues Knowledge useful for ourselves, those close to us, our parents


The effects of inclusion

Less obvious effects, for students Insight into being an outsider helps students understand their own feelings abroad Creation of strong groups, with a sub-culture around the student with disabilities (depends on the students character) Student with disabilities leads the way by anticipating difficulties and initiating conscious learning of social codes


The effects of inclusion

Less obvious effects, in the classroom:
Slowness, patience which helps with language and culture learning More tolerance for OTHER kinds of difference in the classroom A leveling effect, a return to the basics of teaching as a human relationship, an ethic of respect, patience and generosity

The effects of inclusion

Less obvious effects, for program directors and staff
Its okay not to know all the answers Rethink interacting with students about difficulties and prejudice they may face Does equal mean identical ? Respect for all kinds of differences


I feel that as long as the person with a disability is willing and comfortable, then making a study abroad program inclusive to those individuals can only - as with diversity and exposure to any culture, lifestyle and ideas different for ones own, - be incredibly enriching. It can make one look at themselves, their lives, and their environment in whole new ways. Isnt that the kind of experience students looking to study abroad are seeking out?

Many thanks
Thanks to Daniel Audaz, Tyler Jackman, Lori Karker, Lucie Laureillard, Delia Mellado, Derek ORegan, Chris Tidmarsh, Emma Verrill, Chanel Washington, Lindsay Walter, and to all those who shared ideas for this presentation.