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Individuals with Disabilities

Recruitment for all educational exchange programs is based on open, and fair national competition, and on individual merit and academic excellence. Transparency in the selection process is assured through clearly defined eligibility criteria and requirements. Fulbright Greece is fully committed to recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every person, and to the provision of equal rights and opportunities.

The above quote is not just a slogan but a statement in which we believe. The Fulbright Foundation in Greece is committed to opening up all scholarship programs to the broadest possible audience of potential candidates. This includes all individuals – students, researchers, faculty staff members, artists, and teachers – with a disability.

Disabilities do not always require assistive equipment such as a wheelchair or a crutch that are obvious to the onlooker. On the contrary, most disabilities are not visible. They may include symptoms as debilitating fatigue, pain, cognitive dysfunctions and mental disorders, as well as hearing and eyesight impairments and more.

Traveling abroad as a grantee with a disability poses its unique set of challenges. Grantees with disabilities have to navigate a new country, a new culture, a new language, and also succeed in their courses. They have to do these things all while navigating a shift in expectations from their home country regarding what it means be a person with disabilities. Whether or not grantees need assistance, they are first and foremost grantees, visiting a host institution to learn, to grow, and evolve—the same as every other grantee.

Echoes and Reflections from A Fulbright Scholar who Happens to be Blind

"My story begins rather obscurely in July 1968 when I entered this world 15 weeks premature at an Athens hospital that no longer exists. The first months of my life were marked by a struggle for survival as my undeveloped lungs could not yet function. Ventilators saved my life but over-oxygenation caused blindness, a common phenomenon in premature infants. From then on, the byword was no longer survival. It was acceptance... I cannot remember a day in my life when I have not taken a step towards inclusion in the world of the sighted. Greece has a lot to learn with regard to equal rights of individuals with physical or developmental disabilities. Disabled people tend to receive a stipend from the state instead of being encouraged to work towards finding a job which may render them productive, confident, and, all in all, successful members of society. This is where my encounter with the Fulbright Foundation played a catalytic role. The first time I walked into their Athens office, I expected some sort of preamble with the usual inevitable subtext... "Blind people can only be switchboard operators. Why would you wish to study in the US where you would fail and be disappointed? After all, if you graduated first in your class at Athens University, that was only because your professors offered special favors. Had they not done so, you might have never graduated..." This had been the theme and variations I had heard elsewhere. The Fulbright experience was the unexpected pleasant surprise which marked a turning point in my life and well-being. I received my MM in Early Music, Vocal Performance from the Longy School of Music in Cambridge Massachusetts. As I was interested in research as well as singing and teaching my professors encouraged me to delve into more academic fields. Thus, in January 2015 I received a PhD in Historical Musicology from Boston University. My husband and I recently moved back to the Boston area where I am pursuing my teaching and research interests. I wonder if the Fulbright-Foundation members who literally opened the door to my newly acquired healthy well balanced life, can actually realize the unique qualities of their contribution. There is a special place in my heart for each and every one of them, and, needless to say, mere words are not enough for me to express my thanks... Now times have changed and it is my turn to give. I would be honored if I were given the opportunity to help any prospective Fulbrighters with physical or sensory disabilities. The future holds many opportunities for seemingly disabled individuals if they are encouraged to dust off their wings and fly as high as their talents and abilities can take them. Together we can render this world a better, more welcome place."

Maria Georgakarakou, Long School of Music, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1997-1998 Fulbright Graduate Student

Check Fulbright Resources for Individuals with Disabilities

Key factors in ensuring a successful grant experience are: careful preparation and proper communication. On this page, we try to give you some guidelines that might make your trip to the U.S. or to Greece easier.

Greek Grantees Traveling to the United States
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) an individual with a disability is a person who: has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such impairment; or is regarded as having such impairment (Disability Discrimination).

Furthermore, "A person is considered to have a disability if he or she has difficulty performing certain functions (seeing, hearing, talking, walking, climbing stairs and lifting and carrying), or has difficulty performing activities of daily living, or has difficulty with certain social roles (doing school work for children, working at a job and around the house for adults)".

Policies in the United States have greatly promoted the inclusion of people with disabilities into daily life and work and the U.S. has been a forerunner in the Civil Rights Movement. The law protecting disabilities' rights has paved the way for millions of residents with disabilities to live free from discrimination and have equal access to education, employment and technology, as well as many programs and services in their communities.

A useful source is the U.S. federal government website for information on disability programs and services nationwide.

So, what does this mean for you practically?

  • U.S. universities (and secondary schools) cannot discriminate against people with disabilities and universities must offer “reasonable” accommodations (e.g. adjustments) and services necessary for students to have equal access to learning and education. This applies both during the admissions process and while you are a student on campus.
  • In practical terms, this means campuses must be physically accessible or that the university must provide accessible options for students with disabilities. This includes not only classrooms and academic buildings, but also on-campus housing and dining options if offered. Universities are also responsible for providing modified learning equipment, such as a raised desk or lowered laboratory table, if needed. (Note that the university will cover the costs for modified equipment, but not personal aids such as wheelchairs or eyeglasses.)
  • In terms of print materials, universities and national library services will provide textbooks and other communication in alternative, accessible formats, upon request. This applies to information about the university and the application process as well.
  • Universities also provide a wide variety of additional disability-related services and accommodations, such as sign language interpreters, extra time on tests and assignments, etc. These will be determined on an individual basis with the disability support services office.
  • Many universities will go beyond the "reasonable" adjustments and services required by law, offering student organisations and sports specifically for students with disabilities. The disability support services office and/or the student activities office should be able to provide you with more information.
  • Overall, it is important to keep in mind that it is your personal choice to disclose a disability. Unlike at the school level in the U.S., the student, not the university, is responsible for identifying disabilities and requesting disability-related accommodations.

Preparation and Communication
A successful study period requires pre-arrival planning, orientation, or support both from your side and from the side of your institution.

Here are some tips that might help you along the way. Do not forget that the transition will be a lot easier if you feel an empowering sense of autonomy in a new culture and country:

  • Identify all personnel that you should be in contact with, at the institution or the department.
  • Identify those individuals that are most likely to best solve an issue. Inquire into the resources and procedures already in place.
  • Connecting with peers in the United States who have disabilities may be useful in learning new ropes. Local disability organizations may also have people who can orient you.
  • Introduce yourself to the office of students with disabilities by email or by phone call.
  • Maintain contact with the admissions office during the so that it is aware of your arrival and immediate needs.
  • Contact the facilities department in your organization to arrange for accommodation in housing or classrooms. Work with the office for students with disabilities to discuss options for accessible on-campus housing. Local disability organizations may also have help you access the public transportation system. It is best to arrange for this to happen soon after arrival, so that you can sooner navigate independently.
  • Arrange for equipment rental or materials acquisition. Check into costs and ask the disabilities office to find local companies to provide the equipment you may need. You will want to check with the office for students with disabilities as soon as possible to see about acquiring the necessary materials and assistive technology that you may need. A great resource is Learning Ally, the largest resource of spoken textbooks in the United States. Go through your office for students with disabilities to see if you can gain access to services such as these.
  • Contact the airline company to confirm any documentation that is needed to bring certain items such as liquid medicines or ventilators through security and onto the plane. Documentation may also be needed to report items such as pacemakers that may set off the detectors through security.
  • Arrange transportation from the airport to your institution.
  • It is important to remember that when dealing with the international community, there may be different points of etiquette that you may not be familiar with in your culture. Let it be known how you refer to your own disability. Ask questions about how people with disabilities are referred to or treated in the United States.

The information contained in this website is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by the Fulbright Foundation Greece. While we endeavor to keep the information up-to-date and correct, we make no representations or guaranties of any kind, expressly or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the website or the information, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose. Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites that are not under the control of the Fulbright Foundation Greece. We have no control over the nature, content, and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not imply a recommendation or endorsement of the views expressed within them.