Juanita has been a long-time client of the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, participating in the “STEPS” (Successful Teens Exploring Positive Skills) program as well as “Summer in the City”. Through these experiences, I learned numerous and crucial skills to be independent both in my home and out on the streets.
In 2012, I applied to study abroad in Costa Rica to earn credits towards my Spanish Language and Literature degree at Grand Valley State University. Planning the trip was not a simple task, because very few people were able to provide me with resources for persons with disabilities who wish to go abroad. However the support from my family, friends, and advisors encouraged me to push through the planning process.
While in Costa Rica, I lived with a host family and took classes at a local university. In addition, I visited over a dozen beaches, zip lined, surfed and went horseback riding… along with many other fun excursions. I had just as much of a supportive host family as my own family in the United States. Also, my new-found friends were there to assist me, and the whole group in general, with anything.
In January of 2014, I began working with Dr. Natalia Gómez through an independent study course at Grand Valley State University. I started researching more about studying abroad with disabilities. I quickly learned there was no platform available for discussion of relevant topics . My professor’s motivation and support inspired me to create a resource for travelers with disabilities who wish to work, intern, and study or volunteer abroad. From that I started a Facebook page and later expanded to other sites.
Abroad With Disabilities is a platform for the public to ask questions about going abroad and to share ideas or resources that are relevant to working, studying, interning, or volunteering with any type of disability. Along with a team of my peers, we search for and share other resources and articles requested by our followers…or anything others share that might be beneficial.