One of the most fulfilling aspects of study abroad is the opportunity to discover another culture and, thanks to that process, to understand oneself better. It is important to be aware of the cultural differences about disability and accommodations in order to have a successful and safe experience abroad.
Making friends with those who have grown up in a different culture is one of the most rewarding aspects of studying abroad. You can alleviate potential misunderstandings by learning in advance as much as you can about the culture where you'll be living. Please feel at ease to discuss your questions and concerns about this or any other issue with any of the Office for International Study staff members.
How to Prepare
Begin preparing now by doing the following:
- Disclose your disability needs to program staff early so appropriate arrangements can be made in advance.
- Remember that other cultures may provide disability access 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 disability.
- Find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students and attending predeparture 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.
University of Minnesota's Learning Abroad Center: a federally funded project, Access Abroad seeks to enhance existing study abroad opportunities for students with disabilities.
Access-Able Travel Source: provides access information to disabled travelers.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: submitted annually by the U.S. Department of State to the U.S. Congress, this site covers internationally recognized individual, civil, political and worker rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and includes summaries of policies toward individuals with disabilities.
Financial Aid for International Exchange and Disability: published by Mobility International USA, it explains how it may be possible to use supplementary security income or vocational rehabilitation funding toward study abroad.
Global Access: 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.
European Higher Education Accessibility Guide (HEAG): a guide to accessibility services at institutions in many countries across Europe.
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 study abroad participants sorted by region or by disability type.
Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities: promotes opportunities in higher education across the U.K. for students with disabilities.