Disability Awareness Rights Day at the New Mexico State Legislature is Monday, Feb. 17. Guida (Margaret) Leicester, representing the University of New Mexico Global Education Office, presents, “Making the World Accessible for All – University Students with Disabilities and Study Abroad Programs,” at 2:30 p.m. the Courtyard Marriott, 3347 Cerrillos Rd. in Santa Fe.

Leicester’s presentation is among events scheduled to provide individuals or groups working on an initiative or concern affecting persons with disabilities to explain their issue to a large group of advocates.

Leicester is a recent UNM graduate in Education Leadership. Her passion for international travel led to focus her graduate studies research on study abroad programs for higher education students with disabilities. In 2012, Guida was awarded the Foreign Language and Area Studies (F.L.A.S.) Department of Education Title IV Summer Fellowship through the Latin American & Iberian Institute.  She participated in a six-week Study Abroad Language and Culture Program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and wrote a blog on accessibility (guidario2012.wordpress.com).

Currently, Leicester is the Americorps Public Allies New Mexico (PANM) 2013 Intern in the UNM Global Education Office (GEO), providing outreach to students with disabilities and other underrepresented students to participate in university study abroad programs.

Leicester’s presentation delves into the barriers, concerns and assistive technology learning needs are important to international travel for college students with disabilities. Key to her presentation is addressing how U.S. and host country university personnel assist college students with disabilities to participate in a study abroad program. She will focus on increasing the understanding of the learning needs, wider inclusion and participation of university students with disabilities in study abroad programs. 

Both physical and cultural-attitudinal barriers prevent students with disabilities from participating in study abroad programs. Leicester looks at ways to eliminate or reduce the obstacles. “Accessibility issues that students with disability issues face when studying abroad include classroom and learning needs, such as assistive technology, as well as housing and transportation,” she said.

“I stress adaptability solutions, beginning with the need for the student to be flexible,” she said, adding that proving programming suggestions for study abroad staff members is important, as is understanding country laws and regulations as well as providing training for faculty and administrators, both in the U.S. and abroad.