Accessibility Abroad

lake and mountains

Many of the accommodations or services provided at U.S. universities may be different overseas. Additionally, accessibility laws vary widely throughout the world. Therefore, it is in your best interest to notify the study abroad office early so that we will be aware of your needs.

Some quick tips for students with accommodations going abroad are:

  • Discuss your accommodation needs with program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.

  • Remember that other cultures may provide accessibility 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 need.

  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view your accessibility need 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.

  • 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.

  • For more insights into managing your mental health while abroad, check out our Mental Health page.

Be aware that for every student who studies abroad, the experience of being in a completely different cultural environment is often stressful. As a result, accommodations that you may not have needed at home may become necessary in an unfamiliar setting. You should arrange for any accommodations at overseas sites well before departure, as in many countries there is no required or standard rule for easy accessibility for students. Receiving accommodations once you are abroad will be more difficult and may not be possible in the same manner, so be prepared for services that are not the same as what you are used to. Expect that things will be different in the host country; not only in accommodations but in attitudes toward persons who need accommodations, and that there will be a period of adjustment to your new surroundings and culture. You can prepare yourself by seeking out as much information as possible prior to departure.

Additional Resources

Mobility International is a US-based national non-profit organization. The mission is to empower people with disabilities around the world through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training, and to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange and development programs.

Includes information about the following topics: Travel Planning, destinations, transportation, air travel, camps for children and books to buy.

A site sponsored by the University of Minnesota that offers information on choosing the best program, the disability policies and accommodations offered by various programs around the world, and first hand experiences from students with disabilities who have studied abroad.

An IES student's account of navigating fluctuations in mental health during study abroad in Ireland.

External resources organized by country (some have accessibility information).

Tips on managing chronic illness abroad from an IES student in Spain.

Stories from abroad written by travelers with disabilities.

This January 2015 article from GoAbroad.com is a helpful start for exploring study abroad for students with disabilities.