The International Programs Office (IPO) strives to provide equal opportunity to all students who wish to study abroad. All study abroad experiences require a degree of flexibility on the part of the student. Students with disabilities may need to redefine or alter some aspects of their independence when studying abroad. For example, in some countries, disability management may be culturally based (e.g. relying on personal or familial connections) rather than the U.S.-based procedural model for accommodation. Accessibility and levels of accommodation will vary by country, university, and program. Researching accessibility and planning for accommodation are key to a successful study abroad.
Laws regarding disability and disability services vary by country; accessibility with regards to public facilities also vary by country. A university abroad may or may not be adequately equipped to service students with disabilities. For example, universities with less funding, such as those in developing countries, are often less accessible than universities with more funding, such as those in wealthier countries.
Management of accessibility and accommodation issues will vary by disability, accommodations needed, university, and country. The IPO will assist any student in negotiating accommodations with universities, residences, and transportation. Whether you require wheelchair access, sign-language translation, or extra time on examinations, developing a plan is key to a smooth transition abroad.
- Make a short list of the places you would like to study, regardless of accessibility or disability concerns (Program Search).
- Meet with an advisor in the IPO to discuss the likelihood of accommodation in programs on your list.
- Meet with Disability Support Services to discuss your study abroad plans.
- Select a program and apply.
- Plan departure, arrival, and study in the host country.
- Prepare yourself to alter the means of managing your disability and define a support network.
It will be up to the individual student whether or not to disclose a non-apparent disability and to decide if doing so is appropriate or necessary before, during, and after studying abroad. It will be necessary to release any disability if a student wants or needs assistance in planning for accommodation; all programs will need time to plan for adequate accommodation. It is absolutely necessary that prospective study abroad students disclose disabilities early to allow for adequate accommodation planning with a host institution.
Planning for Disability Accommodation Abroad
- U.S. airlines are required to accommodate persons with disabilities. Check with the Department of Transportation for specifics regarding disability accommodation.
- Foreign airlines may not accommodate all disabilities. Before you book a foreign air itinerary, check with the carrier to ensure that they provide disability accommodation.
- For long-haul flights on both U.S. and foreign carriers, check to ensure that accessible airplane bathrooms are available before booking a flight.
- Local transportation may be difficult to plan in advance. Some programs offer a shuttle service from the airport to your temporary accommodation and may be able to help plan local transport for persons with disabilities. The OIE may be able to help with translation if language is a barrier to planning local transportation prior to departure.
- The OIE, universities, and programs abroad may be able to assist students with disabilities in obtaining appropriate housing abroad.
- Students should research accessible housing options even before finally deciding on a study abroad program.
- Be sure to discuss housing with the OIE when selecting your program. The OIE may be able to help with translation prior to departure if language is a barrier to planning housing in a host country.
Supplies, Medication, and Assistance
- If you need a person to assist you while traveling, or during the duration of your stay abroad, plan for this well in advance.
- Some disability-related supplies may not be readily available abroad. Research what supplies are available, and, if need be, bring them with you from the U.S. Some items may need to be shipped. Research the regulations for bringing medications into a country well in advance of traveling.
- If your host university has a disability service office, be sure to research the types of support they can provide.
Classroom Related Accommodation
- Many universities abroad are able to provide classroom accommodation to persons with disabilities, such as extra time on tests, note-taking assistance, etc.
- If you require classroom assistance technologies/assistive devices, check well in advance if these can be provided by the university abroad. Such devices may need to be brought from home or the U.S.
Resources for Students with Disabilities*
(Information adapted from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania website.)
*The University of Idaho and offices and employees of the University are not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information provided on any website to which a visitor might link.