Going to study abroad for a period of time is a challenging time for young people, as they are facing an unfamiliar environment, a new language and culture to name but a few things. In addition, it can be more even more difficult for students with disabilities who may face inaccessible environments or disability-related stereotypes. As recognition of such challenges, ESN developed the ExchangeAbility project to make our organisation accessible for students with disabilities, to help remove obstacles to participation in exchange and promote the opportunities available.
The ExchangeAbility project was also initiated due to a recognition of the current situation regarding the mobility of students with disabilities. According to the data from the European Commission, during the academic year 2009/10 230 students with special needs receiving a supplementary grant participated in Erasmus for study. This represents 0.14 % of all Erasmus students. Although an increase compared to the previous years has been observed, the number is still exceptionally low.
MapAbility, a subproject, was created to help students with disabilities finding a suitable university for their exchange. ESN members, local students and exchnage students mapped univeristies concerning their accessibility.