Accessibility and level of accommodations will depend on the program and country. Laws regarding disability and services vary by country. Each student's case will be reviewed on an individual basis to ensure a successful study abroad experience. Since many foreign countries do not have the same accessibility laws as the United States it is key that you inform the study abroad office of your needs and concerns. The study abroad office will need to be contacted as early as possible in order to ensure that all special accommodations can be put in place.
Things to Consider
- Students are encouraged to disclose their disability to DSD and the Rinker Center for International Programs.
- There is much value in learning about the cultural differences in the country in which you will be studying.
- Understand that other countries define and respond to needs of persons with disabilities according to their culture.
- Identify more than one program of interest since program sites will have different types of accessibility.
- Contact your sites of interests to further learn about possibilities of accessibility.
- When assessing accessibility, consider the physical structures (ramps, elevators, curb cuts), the support services available (such as a disability services office), and what flexibility exists to design creative solutions (such as moving a classroom to the ground floor or identifying someone to serve as a notetaker).
- Speak with students with disabilities who have participated in various study abroad programs to obtain information about their personal experience.
Resources for planning your study abroad
Mobility International USA: Dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities to travel and experience other cultures
Transitions Abroad: A variety of travel information regarding disability related issues
Travel Guide: A travel resource full of useful information for student travelers, including planning, checklists, safety, foreign travel, passports, visas, health, studying abroad, and more
Seattle University: Identity and Disclosure: Ways in which a disability can impact a study abroad experience
18 Tips for International Travelers
Adapted from Survival Strategies for Going Abroad: A Guide for People with Disabilities
By Laura Hershey
- Tell everyone about your dream. You may tell someone who can help make it happen.
- Research the options. Keep looking until you find what you want.
- Ask key questions. Does weather have an effect on your disability? If you have multiple sclerosis, it might.
- Develop international contacts before you go. Join international organizations; go online; become a host family for foreign visitors or volunteer with exchange programs.
- Present your disability realistically and positively. Openly communicate before you go.
- Be a creative fundraiser. Ask for it; earn it; go for it.
- Don't assume accessibility. Doorways, steps, signs—accessible definitions are not universal.
- Learn a little language. Know at least a few key words and expressions to make communication go more smoothly.
- Be firm but flexible. Ask for what you need.
- Be open to wheelchair options. Power wheelchairs may not work; extra tire tubes may be a must.
- Choose the right attendant or interpreter. Appropriate physical skills, language skills, and temperament are important.
- Know the rules about traveling with a service dog. Research quarantine laws and required documentation.
- Pack carefully. Both day-to-day necessities and extras for unplanned situations are key.
- Connect with local disability organizations and people with disabilities. Connections made before you go will help with the transition to a new culture.
- Be adaptable. Work with your situation, not against it.
- Maintain your medication schedule. Regularity is important, even critical.
- Push yourself outside your cultural comfort zone. Be open to new experiences and ideas.
- Be creative. No sidewalk ramps or learning a new area? Find a side street, driveway, or a willing passerby.