There is now a study abroad program specially tailored for students with disabilities.
University of Florida students now have an opportunity to study abroad in London as part of a special program that teaches about accommodations for people with disabilities — and is itself disability friendly. Spearheaded by the UF in London Smart Cities and Disability Access program, 18 students participated for the first time in May, learning about disability access in London and the role of smart technology in facilitating access for all people. The program is expected to return to London this spring.
Developed over the course of five years with the help of the UF International Center and the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, the study abroad program starts simple by improving the planning and communication between students and their study abroad advisors, program directors, and host universities.
Jenna Gonzalez, director of the Disability Resource Center, accompanied the students internationally to educate them on the role that accessible technology plays on improving the challenges people with disabilities face.
Students spend a week traveling to London’s most famous landmarks and experiencing British culture. Students also visit organizations advocating for people with disabilities as well as technological and infrastructure companies pioneering smart cities technology in urban planning, mass transportation, and autonomous vehicles.
One of the most notable stops is the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which follows the American Disability Act (ADA) and Europe’s equivalent EAA accessibility guidelines. Students take a technical and accessibility tour of the stadium, which is one of the most technological and efficient facilities around the world.
One program attendee, Lindsi Baugher, is majoring in materials science and engineering and credits the program to be an impactful experience for spreading awareness.
Baugher, who is deaf with a cochlear implant, said, “As an engineering student who has a disability and loves to travel, I could not pass up the opportunity with several of my favorite things all in one program.”
She believes the program not only impacts the future of students with disabilities but also inspires those who participate. The UF in London Smart Cities and Disability Access program is open to all majors and students, including those without disabilities, who are in good standing and have at least a 2.5 GPA.
“There are so many disabilities to be aware of, and all deserve to be recognized, whether it's seen or unseen disabilities, or even both,” Baugher said. “The Disability Resource Center's goal is to spread awareness and empower their students to help them get the support they need.”