Throughout the world, different cultures produce different perceptions and beliefs. This includes not only gender roles, sexual orientation and/gender identity, but also what society perceives as a disability. Disability accommodations and acknowledgement of a disability are subject to social customs. Thus, certain accommodations may be provided for, but in an unfamiliar way, and not all countries have the same accessibility laws as in the United States. Also be aware that a change in environment, diet, the stress of travel, and a new atmosphere may actually exacerbate certain symptoms or conditions during the adjustment period.
- Alert the program staff and faculty early on to your disability so that they may make the appropriate arrangements.
- Before you go to the host country, find out how the culture views disability; read, talk to other students, and attend pre-departure orientations.
- Consider beforehand how you will explain you disability in the a foreign language.
- Learn about the medical care and costs in the host country and consult with your physician on healthcare needs and whether you are in a well enough condition to travel.
Questions to Consider
- How is disability defined in the host country and how will questions about it be answered?
- What are the airline’s accommodation capabilities for disabilities?
- Is the airline you are traveling on able to accommodate a service animal if one is necessary?
- What types of accommodations will you require traveling throughout the buildings and in-between destinations?
- If some academic activities take place outside and require mobility, will assistance be provided and who will provide it? What is the condition of the streets and sidewalks?
- Are there substantive additional finances due to accommodations; if so, how will these costs be funded? Also, are personal care assistance services available in the host country and what are the costs? How will those costs be covered?
- Are service animals allowed in the host country? Are there conditions? Are there certain places where a service animal is prohibited from entering?
- Are veterinary services available in the host country?
- What types of housing options are available? Are the bathroom, shower, and bedroom arrangements physically accessible for you? If not, how can these problems be addressed? Are there alternative housing options?
Related Links & Resources
Students with Disabilities Studying Abroad-NAFSA: excerpt from International Educator handbook.
Tips for Disabled Travelers provided by Travel.State.Gov.
Traveling with Disabilities provided by Travel.State.Gov.
IES Disability Grants: IES Abroad offers the possibility of grants for students with disabilities in order to help with additional costs due to their disability.
The following links all provide useful tips, information, and possible programs and services for disabled students planning to travel abroad:
Mobility International USA