Students with Disabilities Abroad
As a student with disabilities, you may have thought about what study abroad would look like for you. While you prepare for studying abroad, we are here to help and offer the questions and resources below as a starting point. As always, your EA advisor is available to assist you with your questions and navigate these resources.
- What is my host culture's attitude toward individuals with disabilities (mobility, psychiatric, hearing, vision, learning, etc.)?
- In what ways should I prepare to adjust to living in a foreign country? (re: housing, food, culture, language, etc.)
- If I am the only person with a disability in my program, how will that impact my experience abroad?
- Overall, what is the physical environment and terrain like of my host city and host university?
- Is transportation (bus, train, airports) available and accessible?
- Are there accessible housing options that are close to classes? If there are dining areas, laundry rooms, and study areas, are these accessible as well?
- Are bathrooms in key areas (classroom, housing, libraries) accessible?
- Are local businesses (banks, shopping centers, markets, grocery stores) accessible?
- How many on-site resources (offices, staff, hospitals, counseling centers, note taking assistants, books on tape, etc.) are offered in my host city/university?
- How different is the academic environment, and is there flexibility for longer test time, reduced workloads, mandatory excursions, etc.?
- What support systems are necessary to help me overcome barriers or to cope with bias related incidents?
- What barriers might I encounter (both in planning to go abroad, and while abroad), and how will I overcome them?
- If I utilize academic, medical, psychological, or other resources at my home institution, will I utilize resources abroad? Where can I find the resources I need? What is the financial cost of these resources and what does my insurance cover?
- Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.
- 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 new environment.
- 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.
Probably the hardest part about studying abroad was handling other people’s expectations of me. Because I use a cane, a lot of the time people thought that I couldn't do certain things that I wanted to try. It was really important for me to be more vocal about my own abilities, both when I wanted to do something and when I needed to not. By the end, people trusted me and I trusted myself more too.
- Visit the Guide to Resources for Students with Disabilities on UMD-sponsored programs. This matrix is a guide to resources provided by our exchange partners for students with disabilities. The matrix is not a comprehensive list of all existing resources, but it is a starting point in your research. Contact your Education Abroad Advisor to learn more about these and other resources at the host institution.
- Review Diversity Abroad’s resource guide for students with disabilities
- Read about Culture Shock and American Identity Abroad
- Check out the resources offered by Mobility International USA, an organization that provides helpful information and resources to encourage individuals with disabilities to study abroad.
- Check out the Counseling Center for information on common student concerns