Hosting a student with a disability is in many ways like hosting any other student. However, there are some additional considerations that can help to make the experience more comfortable for both the family and the student.
Suggestions for Advisors
- Communication: Encourage the family to offer help to the student with his/her daily activities. Homestay families should not, however, be expected to provide personal assistance.
- Expectation: A student with a disability should be expected to interact with the host family in the same way as any other student on the program and follow any other rules associated with homestays. It is not necessary to find a family with prior experience accommodating students with disabilities. Any family that receives adequate orientation and training about a student's needs could be a potential host family for a student with a disability.
- Education: To promote understanding and good communication, encourage the family to learn as much about the student's disability as possible and not to rely on stereotypes.
- Accommodation: On-site staff should use the Accommodation Request Form as a guide for the conversations with the host family about requested accommodations. (i.e. For a student with a visual impairment, the home should be cleared of any obstacles or hazards. Or, if the student has limited mobility, finding a homestay close to class or accessible transportation will be a priority.)
- Access: Clarify for the host family any medication requirements the student may have. (i.e. Does a student require refrigeration for certain medications?)
- Support: Clarify with the host family the boundaries of their responsibility and encourage them to contact you if they have questions or concerns.
Suggestions for Host Families
- Open-Minded: Do not make assumptions about a student's needs or rely on stereotypes. Learn about the specific way the student is impacted by his/her disability.
- Understanding: Ask a student if you can help before you act.
- Responsibility: As a homestay host, you are not expected to provide personal assistance with dressing, bathing, etc. If a student needs assistance, a personal attendant should be hired.
- Sensitivity: Don't be overly self-conscious about using certain words and phrases, such as "See what I mean?" or "I've got to run." These are part of our common language and are not offensive.
- Patience: Be considerate of the extra time it might take a disabled student to speak or act.
- Etiquette: Speak directly to the student, not to a companion or interpreter. Ask if you have questions. Most students are open to discussing their needs.
- Adjustment: US students with disabilities are often very independent and may need time to adjust to new ways of dealing with their disabilities.
- Communication: Talk with the student about the cultural norms and attitudes of your country.
- Awareness: The general nature of the student's disability and needs should be communicated to you in advance so that you can prepare for the student's arrival. Discuss with program staff any adaptations that may be necessary to the home environment to accommodate the student's disability.
Modifications in the Home
When hosting a student with a mobility disability, the family may need to adapt the home. Some examples:
- Consider accessibility to bathrooms, entrances, and doorways
- Circumvent steps
- Assess whether the floor surfaces are smooth and unobstructed
- Provide handrails to make stairways manageable
- Remove a door and hang a curtain instead to widen doorways
- Put handrails, a hand-held shower attachment, or a stool in the shower