Students with Disabilities & Education Abroad
“Admittedly, I did not know if it would be possible to go abroad as someone with a disability at first, but I advocated for myself and asked questions despite the beliefs of others thinking that I could not go abroad I participated in excursions that I never thought of doing before and saw the power of language and culture
” — Juanita Lillie, ISA Costa Rica
Did You Know?
- Disability-related income benefits can continue abroad and even be used to pay for overseas educational and living experience
- According to the 2015-16 Open Doors Report conducted by the Institute of International Education, participation in study abroad students with disabilities has increased nearly 6% in the last decade.
- Several foreign institutions of higher education also have an office of Services for Students with Disabilities and information accessible on their website
- 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.
- Prepare to get enough medications you may be taking well ahead of time and have enough for the entirety of your time abroad.
- 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
- CU Boulder's Office of Disability Services: a CU resource for services and information
- Abroad With Disabilities (AWD) is a non-profit organization with the goal of promoting the belief that persons with disabilities can and should go abroad.
- Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund: This website, advocating disability civil rights, provides a list of international disability laws by country
- Financial Aid for International Exchange and Disability: A series of resources published by Mobility International USA explains how it may be possible to use Supplementary Security Income or Vocational Rehabilitation Funding toward education abroad
- 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.
- Can I volunteer abroad with my chronic condition? by Nikki Kraska
- 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
- Juanita Lillie ISA intern talks about studying abroad in Costa Rica