Students with disabilities face unique challenges and growth opportunities in the study abroad experience. Students with disabilities may find themselves better equipped to deal with these challenges because of past experiences being part of an under represented group. With proper planning and communication, this experience can be tremendously rewarding for the student and host community. Each culture differs in the way people perceive and accommodate levels of ability. For these reasons, it is important to do the following:
- Disclose any disability to the study abroad program as early as possible in order to ensure that the program is right for you and that necessary arrangements can be made.
- Anticipate differences in the way your host community may provide support. Your host culture may have different perceptions or may handle disability differently. Even if that culture approaches disability in the same way the US does, you may be studying with students from all over the world who will bring their culturally specific expectations with them. Prepare yourself by reading about your host culture and by talking to alumni of your program. Once you arrive in your host community, be flexible and keep an open mind about different kinds of support and accommodation.
- Prepare yourself with the language skills to talk about your disability with those on your program and in your host country.
*Adopted from University of Minnesota's Access Abroad.
Some questions to ask
You might also find it helpful to research the host culture's attitudes toward disabilities, both visible and invisible, in order to get a sense of how to prepare yourself for your time abroad. Some questions to consider:
- How are people with my disability viewed in the host country? How will I field questions about my disability?
- What kinds of accommodations will I need in terms of housing and transportation once in the host country?
- How accessible will my dorms/campus/environs be?
- What resources are available to me in the host country if I need assistance or support?
- Will my disability prevent me from participating in excursions offered by my program?