Designing inclusion into faculty-led and co-curricular short programs abroad

Students with disabilities face added barriers to participating in faculty-led and co-curricular programs like field schools, field research courses, and international service learning projects. In particular, field schools in disciplines like conservation, geography, earth sciences, marine ecology and archaeology are often physically demanding as they involve observations and data collection that can only be done in remote areas or in difficult terrain accessible only by foot or boat. Field programs are also socially, academically and emotionally intensive which can be challenging for students with mental health challenges or cognitive disabilities.

UBC will investigate and compile a repository of good practices for enhancing the accessibility of such programs, and pre-/post-program activities.

A graduate student will do this research, design new interventions, make recommendations and create a new resource to be used by universities and researchers around the world to improve the accessibility of global field course activities and to support students pre/post travel.

We aim to publish a resource (e.g. on a website) that can be shared globally that will include:
– Recommendation for designing field courses to enhance inclusion for students with all types of abilities and disabilities,
– Recommendations for evaluating program proposals on criteria around inclusion and universal accessibility,
– a repository of examples and case studies,
– a country by country guide of local resources for supporting students with disabilities.

We also wish to use some of the funding to allow faculty to pilot new methods/interventions to support accessibility in their programs, and to purchase necessary equipment or technology that can be shared across programs to enhance inclusion (e.g. special cameras, GPS, chairs/lifts, etc). Students would also be able to access additional funding to cover costs incurred to support participation (e.g. travel for an attendant, equipment, sign-language interpretation, etc.)

Currently, UBC’s Centre for Accessibility responds to the needs of students with disabilities who need academic accommodations during field courses, but do not have resources or expertise to support adjustments/adaptations to the logistical elements of field courses abroad. Similarly, while our office (Go Global) has supported field courses for over a decade, we have not had the resources to develop the expertise to offer this type of guidance to faculty and students participating in field courses.

UBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology has resources on universal design but are aimed solely at in-classroom or online teaching, and not field courses.

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Strengthening Canada’s Global Skills: Our submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance Pre-budget Consultations in Advance of Budget 2024

The program has equipped a new generation of students, from all backgrounds, with global skills necessary to meet Canada’s ever evolving labour market needs. It is now time to make the program a permanent part of Canada’s skills strategy and approach to international education.