CROSS-CULTURAL ASPECTS: COMMUNICATION AND BARRIERS

May 24 and 25, 2012

QUESTION:  What needs, experiences, barriers, concerns, and assistance are important to international travel for college students with disabilities (SwDs)?

SUB-QUESTION #1:  How do U.S. university personnel assist college SwDs to travel internationally?

SUB-QUESTION #2:  How do university personnel in the host country assist college SwDs while they are participating in a study abroad program?

(Thanks to Professor Alicia Chavez, my faculty advisor, for helping me develop these important questions.)

Accessibility Key (rating accessibility/accommodations in and around Rio de Janeiro, June-August 2012):

>:P phbbbbt = mau (bad)

:| straight face = mais ou menos (so-so, ok)

:) happy = bom, ta legal (good, great)

What a day!  I’m exhausted from trying to arrange my accommodations in Rio de Janeiro.  As a person with a disability, I must arrange accommodations that will meet my needs.  Those needs have increased since I fractured my knee-cap almost three months ago.  The details seem overwhelming to me, so imagine how those needs come across to those who are working to find the appropropiate accessible rental/home stay for me on the other end in RJ?

I am six weeks away from my departure date to Brazil.  I have been trying to set something up for nearly a month now via e-mail. My Portuguese Professor  suggested that I have a ‘plan B’ in place, in case IBEU (Instituto Brasileiro Estados Unidos–this summer’s RJ School/Program) cannot set up a rooming situation that will be appropriate for me.  Thanks to a contact of a contact of a contact I know in São Paulo, I have been communicating with both IBEU and my friend’s friend’s friend–all by email and in Portuguese.  Two days ago, I had to change my arrival dates because of a huge UN Conference in Rio.  I was going to arrive a week early but it wasn’t panning out and seemed too expensive.  Now, because of my date changes, it seems, instead of making things easier, this change has caused more confusion.  Although I never meant for this to become more confusing–and I appreciate people trying to help me–the more I try to communicate this, the more it seems I am making the situation worse.  I fear my Portuguese does not come across very well.

Needs:  Accessible accommodations close to IBEU classrooms.  I hope to rent a power wheel chair to get me to and from the IBEU building each day.  I will take my walker to allow me to walk short distances at IBEU and in my home stay.  I need a ground floor bed and bathroom.  Bedroom should be located as close to the bathroom as possible, and bed mattress raised high enough to make getting in and out of bed easy.  Bathroom needs either a roll in shower and/or shower chair, hand held shower nozzle, grab bars, and heightened toilet seat.  These are my needs.  I can and will adapt, however is needed.  What I am used to having here at home in Albuquerque, NM, may not be available to me in Brazil.  Flexibility is key.  (Vou Dar um Jeito–I will find a way.)

Experiences:  When I was in Brazil last September 2011, accessibility was, at times, excellent! 🙂  Other times, well…  :| straight face  My own flexibility and people-assistance filled the gaps very well.  Brazilians have a lot of compassion and heart and will lend a hand, as needed.  At one point during my previous trip, I had to enter and exit a VW van with no lift.  Fortunately, I am somewhat mobile, so I was able to get in the van with three people pulling me from one end and three people pushing from the other end.  At that time, I was more able than I am now, since I fractured my right knee-cap three months ago.  In addition to my weak left-side, I now have the compromised right leg with constant pain now that I did not have last fall.  I am a little nervous as how I will do, but once again, dar um jeito.  There is always a way!

Barriers:  Cross-cultural differences are coming to the forefront.  I feel frustrated that I cannot communicate as well in Portuguese as I can in English.  Perceptions come into play.  Mine and others.  My way of communicating–wanting to know what is happening step by step–may seem too overbearing to my hosts.  If several days go by with no word from those working on my behalf in Brazil, I worry.  Maybe I’m asking too much?  Being a PwD with extra needs, language mis-communication, cross-cultural perceptions come into play in big ways.  Oy Vey.  Why am I trying to do this all myself?  My sister suggests I contact a travel agent.  I will call one tomorrow.

Concerns:  Will I be able to procure the accessible accommodations I need at a price I can afford while in RJ?

Assistance:  Better communication !

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