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Empowering Students with Disabilities: Academic Exchange to Texas and California
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Faculty and students from the NTNU Special Education Center recently embarked on an academic visit to universities in Texas and California, as part of the 'Flying Against the Wind: Academic Delegation to the United States' initiative. Conducted during the winter break, this visit builds on the success of a prior international study tour, aiming to expand global perspectives, enhance independence, and promote self-advocacy among students with disabilities.

Coordinated by Assistant Research Fellow Hui-Ching Ko and Resource Room Staff Member Yu-Hsiang Tseng, this diverse group of students—each with distinct academic backgrounds and disabilities—engaged in academic exchanges at the University of Texas at Austin and Stanford University over two weeks, from January 27 to February 9, 2024. Structured around site visits and immersive local experiences, the program encouraged students to participate in discussions, reflect on their experiences, and pursue personal growth.

The delegation's activities in the United States focused on 'accessibility review' and 'academic exchange activities.' These encompassed attending classes at UT-Austin, exploring campus facilities designed to support students with disabilities, such as the Disability and Access and the Disability Culture Center, delving into California's technology sectors, and connecting with Art Spark Texas, a local community group. Notably, the students attended classes on “Individual Differences” and “Life Change Through Travel,” led by Dr. Lisa Sigafoos and Dr. Jim Patton, respectively. Moreover, NTNU students contributed insights into Taiwan's culture, history, and support systems for students with disabilities.

Beyond formal events, the group explored accessible spaces in San Antonio, experienced an NBA game, visited The Alamo, and enjoyed a San Antonio River boat tour. In San Francisco, their itinerary included Lombard Street, Pier 39, and a tour of Google's headquarters, where discussions with five Google team members offered valuable perspectives on U.S. culture.

This international academic exchange, planned and executed by a team from NTNU’s Special Education Center including Director Shin-Tzu Hu, Assistant Research Fellow Ko, and Resource Room Staff Member Tseng, is part of the 'Flying against the Wind' curriculum, emphasizing leadership and self-advocacy. Assistant Research Fellow Ko remarked, “The program is designed to foster university exchanges, build leadership skills, and encourage students to venture beyond their comfort zones for both personal and academic development.”

Support and encouragement from NTNU's President Cheng-Chih Wu and faculty members were crucial to the success of this trip. Although the trip has since concluded, its profound impact will continue to inspire students to approach challenges with courage, fostering personal and academic growth.

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