The Education Abroad office and our program partners are committed to giving students with disabilities equal opportunities to study abroad!
Having a disability shouldn’t deter you from studying abroad. Our office is here to support you and help you find a program that is accessible for you!
How do I get started as a disabled student looking to study abroad?
We recommend disclosing your accommodation needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.
We also recommend attending Study Abroad 101 to learn the basics of how to study abroad and search for programs, and then contact an EA advisor at firstname.lastname@example.org to request an appointment to discuss how to search for and narrow down programs as a disabled student.
Starter Tips for Disabled Students:
- Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way. Learn about what types of accommodations 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.
- Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions of your program provider! If you are concerned about your access needs or accommodations, make sure to get your questions answered before your departure.
Questions to ask as a disabled student
- If I am the only person with a disability in my program, how will that impact my experience abroad?
- What support systems are necessary to help me overcome barriers or to cope with bias related incidents?
- Overall, what is the physical environment and terrain like of my host city and/or host university?
- What is my host culture’s attitude toward individuals with disabilities (mobility, psychiatric, hearing, vision, learning, etc)?
- Are local businesses (banks, shopping centers, markets, grocery stores, etc) accessible?
- What will my airport arrival and departure assistance look like?
- How will I be expected to navigate while away?
- What are the public transportation options available in the place of interest?
- Are these public transportation options accommodating to my needs?
- What are my alternatives to public transportation while gone?
- Are local taxis, Uber, Lyft, or other ride services a safe and reliable option while I’m away?
- Does the host institution or program offer transportation services? How will I pay these extra transportation expenses?
- Are there any resources that would help fund my transportation needs while away?
- How does this country view service animals?
- What are the protocols needed to have my service animal come away with me?
- Can I have my service animal be recognized as one while away?
- Will my service animal be allowed on the host institution grounds?
- What are the protocol and paperwork needed to have my service animal recognized as such at the host institution?
- Will I be guaranteed housing in a place where service animals are accepted, or will I have to find my own housing?
- How will I get my service animal to adapt to a new environment?
- Is the medication I need to support myself legal in my study abroad or away destination?
- What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have this medication taken with me?
- What do I need to have my doctor or health care provider prescribe me with enough medication to last me for my study abroad or away program?
- What are my options if I need more of the same medication?
- Where and how should I pack this medication?
Housing and Meals
- Will I be placed in a housing situation that will meet my accommodation needs?
- Will I be allowed to find my own housing situation? Will I have assistance in searching for housing?
- If I will be placed with a host family, will they be understanding of my accommodation needs? What can I do if they are not?
- Are there accessible housing options that are close to classes?
- If there are dining areas, laundry rooms, and study areas, are those accessible as well?
- If I have special dietary needs, how can I request this?
- Will the host institution accommodate my needs?
- How different is the academic environment, and is there flexibility for longer test time, reduced workloads, mandatory excursions, etc?
- Are bathrooms in key areas (classrooms, housing, libraries, etc) accessible?
- What will the learning experience and learning expectations be like?
- What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have staff and professors recognize my accommodation needs?
- Does the host institution have a disability resource center?
- How many on-site resources (offices, staff, note taking assistants, books on tape, etc) are offered?
- Are there any organizations or clubs or resources as to where I can find community with my disability, different ability, or accommodation needs?
Counseling and Medical Services
- Does the health insurance I receive while I’m away cover additional counseling and medical services I may need?
- How can I continue my therapy sessions while away?
- Where can I find a local therapist?
- Where can I find a therapist in my dominant language?
- What are my options for therapy and medical providers?
- Does the host institution offer therapy sessions or medical services for their students at special rates?
- Do I qualify for these sessions or services?
Costs of additional accommodations and support
- How will my financial aid packaging support these additional costs, or are they expected to be paid out of pocket?
- Are there additional resources such as aid, grants, or scholarships I should look into to help fund these additional costs?
- How this anxiety-sufferer prepares for her Amsterdam adventure
- Don’t make me leave
- Being a legally blind student abroad
- Managing a physical disability abroad
- The ADD/ADHD person’s guide for prepping for study abroad
- A student with cerebral palsy’s personal experience in South Africa
- A student with cerebral palsy shares her personal experience about her language study in Germany
- A student with Spina Bifida shares her experiences about her studies in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
Additional Resources & Links
UMBC On-Campus Disability Support
U.S. Organizations for Resources, Experiences and Support
- Access Abroad: National Resource on study abroad for students with disabilities
- CDC Advising Travelers with Specific Needs: Resources and Information on traveling with a disability
- Mobility International USA is an organization that focuses on international travel for youth with disabilities. They publish a variety of resources, including the AWAY Youth with Disabilities pamphlet which includes great strategies for how to choose a program.
- Access Able is an organization that provides specific information about accommodations, attractions, transportation, equipment rental and equipment repair.
- Helpful tips for traveling with disabilities
- US Dept of State: Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs has a Disabilities in Exchange Program committed to the inclusion of citizens with disabilities participating in international exchange.
- The Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH) is an educational nonprofit group that publishes a travel magazine and offers advice.