Studying Abroad with Disabilities
Students with disabilities can and do study abroad, and they often say that their time abroad was the most exciting time in college. While study abroad can be challenging, the experience can help you learn more about yourself and your capabilities.
Education Abroad works with Disability Access Center (DAC) to identify study abroad programs that meet your interests and needs.
What are the Essential Steps?
Talk openly and honestly with the Education Abroad (EdAbroad) study abroad advisor and with your DAC advisor about your disability. Discuss what is required to manage it and potential issues that could occur while abroad. Advising about program fit, course selection and personal needs is collaborative effort shared by EdAbroad, DAC and the program you select to make your experience successful. They will work together to assess your needs and discuss accommodations that are possible.
Explore reasonable accommodations
Learn what types of accommodations are possible in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability. It is best to identify several programs that meet your academic interests since different program locations will have different types or levels or accessibility.
- Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance. Your DAC counselor can offer you support and assistance during the disclosure process.
- Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way - learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
- Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment. EdAbroad staff is here to help you locate resources that can assist you in preparing for your time abroad.
- Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
Adopted from Access Abroad
Early Disclosure is Important
Appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations need to be made in advance. Even if you are not sure you will need accommodations abroad, it is still important to make potential needs known so that a plan is in place in case an issue arises and that funding can be secured.
If you disclose needs at the last minute, there will be a delay in arranging accommodations. If you require accommodations that are not available in the host country, you may be advised to postpone participation.
- Research the accessibility of each site and determine which destinations will best suit your academic and accommodation needs.
- Your DAC counselor will consult with you to determine what accommodations are required for you to be successful abroad.
- Make a detailed list of your daily activities and note tasks you can accomplish alone and which ones will require assistance.
Studying abroad requires flexibility for people with and without disabilities. For anyone, living in another culture will be different. These differences include disability services, perceptions, and accessibility standards from what you are used to in the U.S.
Adapted from UCEAP Student with Disabilities
- Mobility International U.S.A. (MIUSA): Empowering people with disabilities around the world through international exchange and international development to achieve their human rights.
- Mobility International U.S.A. (MIUSA) - A World Awaits You: A Journal on People with Disabilities Traveling with a Purpose
- WWU disAbility Resources for Students: Studying Abroad with Disabilities
- Access Abroad - University of Minnesota
- Inclusion International: The international network of people with intellectual disabilities and their families
- International Disability News Ticker
- European Accessibility Resources
- How Students with Disabilities Can Study Abroad
- Studying in Australia as a Disabled Student
- Studying in Germany as a Disabled Student
- Studying in UK as a Disabled Student
- Wheelchair Accessible Countries
The cost of studying abroad varies depending on what kind of program you select, where you going and for how long. Most financial aid can be applied to study abroad and many students find that the cost of going abroad is comparable to the cost of studying on campus. It is important to arrange in advance any funding required for accommodations abroad.
A WWU study abroad program, CIEE and Mobility International USA are partnering to give more U.S. college students with disabilities the chance to study abroad! Check out their scholarships.