Disability & Education Abroad
“ I saw on a website for students with disabilities that the campus is very accessible...It's not really something out of the ordinary and they just treat you like any other person and that is what I hope for. I think it's better there than in the U.S. ” — New Zealand, Fall 2009
Did You Know?
- Disability-related income benefits can continue abroad and even be used to pay for overseas educational and living experience.
- In 2011, 4.1 percent of U.S students studying abroad reported a disability (this number is estimated to be much larger)
- Studying abroad can help improve confidence and independence
- Increase valuable skills like cross-cultural communication and adaptability to benefit your future career
- Dispel your own stereotypes and fight stereotypes by educating others
You Are Ready!
Begin preparing now by doing the following:
- Communicate with your education abroad program manager and (if you are registered with disability services) your coordinator, about the country/program you plan/wish to go to, your specific needs, and how you can all work together to make this process as smooth as possible. Disclose your needs early (preferably right after acceptance to a program) so appropriate arrangements can be made in advance. We can all meet together if you'd like.
- Other countries may provide access in a different way -- learn about what types of accommodation are typical provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating.
- Research the cultural aspects regarding individuals with disabilities in the country(ies) you are planning or considering traveling to.
- Prepare ahead of time: Read, communicate with other students, and attend the required 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 -- learn key vocabulary words ahead of time.
- Continue learning while you are abroad by talking with your new friends, host family, conversation partner, teacher, etc.
Useful Resources to Begin Your Exploration
- Access Abroad - University of Minnesota /Information for Students with Disabilities: Access Abroad, a federally funded project, seeks to enhance existing education abroad opportunities for students with disabilities. This is currently the most comprehensive resource for students with disabilities and education abroad.
- CU Boulder's Office of Disability Services: a CU resource for services and information
- CU Boulder Student Finds Studying Abroad, Despite Wheelchair, Delivers Adventure, Friendship and "Non-Stop Fun:" read about former CU student Molly Bloom's education abroad experience in New Zealand
- Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund: This website, advocating disability civil rights, provides a list of international disability laws by country
- European Disability Forum: a collection of pro-disabled persons initiatives in Europe
- Financial Aid for International Exchange and Disability: This handout published by Mobility International USA explains how it may be possible to use Supplementary Security Income or Vocational Rehabilitation Funding toward education abroad.
- Global Access: This disabled travel network is a forum for disabled travelers to share their experiences. Find travel tips and articles on a wide variety of destinations. If you have traveled with a disability, submit your own story to this site.
- Mobility International USA: Mobility International USA (MIUSA) aspires to empower people with disabilities through international exchange, information, technical assistance and training, to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange and development programs.
- National Clearing House on Disability & Exchange: a comprehensive one-stop resource for people with disabilities, exchange and disability staff interested in study, work, intern, volunteer, research or teach abroad programs. It includes personal stories from education abroad participants sorted by region or by disability type.
- U.S. Department of State tips.
- UN Enable: This is the United Nations' disabilities branch, focusing on promoting the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
- Navigating London in a Wheelchair by CAPA Student Kenny Burr
- Lucas Scheelk (CAPA London Fall 2013) on exploring London from an autistic & LGBT perspective