Visible and Invisible Disabilities
Just as cultures differ, so do disability accommodations and perceptions. The key for any study abroad participant is flexibility. Students are encouraged to communicate their needs and consider alternative ways to meet them. Disability Services and Study Abroad & Global Engagement are here to assist you before and during your trip abroad.
Quick Tips for Students with Disabilities Going Abroad
- Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations 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.
- Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending 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—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
Preparing to Depart
Students with both visible and invisible disabilities should consider what accommodations they may need abroad. We encourage students to disclose any concerns they have about mobility, access, and accommodations to their program coordinator. If needed, program coordinators can reach out to the Academic Achievement & Access center, on-site staff abroad, and if applicable, the faculty director to determine what preferred accommodations are and what accommodations are necessary for success on the program, such as elevators, quiet rooms, or testing services.
Your host country may not have the same resources that you are used to in the United States, and they may view accessibility differently. Legal regulations—both domestic and international—may apply differently when you travel. Cultural norms may be more accommodating or less accommodating for certain abilities. Some prescriptions may not be allowed abroad, so make sure you speak with your physician to determine what alternative or supplemental medications you can take while you are abroad.
Mobility International is a great place to start your research in collaboration with your program coordinator. This organization provides resources and can offer helpful suggestions to make your international experience run smoothly. They also can suggest apps and other tools to assist you with everything from finding an accessible restaurant to locating a mental health professional.
Questions to Consider When Choosing a Program & Before Departure
- What is the contact information for local disabilities services organizations in my host country?
- If I wish to take a service animal with me, what are the domestic and international regulations on doing so?
- What mobile apps or other tools that could help me abroad?
- Are my medications legal in my host country and other countries I may be traveling in or through?
- Are the same accommodations I receive at KU available to me abroad?
- Will I have the same access to medication and physical or mental health services abroad?
- Will my housing accommodate my needs?
- What solutions can I plan for now to manage new challenges I might face abroad?
Many common medications, including Adderall, Prozac, Vicodin, Demerol, Percocet, Ritalin, Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Valium, Androgel, and Sudafed are banned or controlled substances in certain countries abroad. If you regularly take prescription pain medication, stimulants, steroids, sedatives, or injectable medications, notify your program coordinator. They can help you research your host country’s drug laws and provide advice on how to successfully travel with your medication.
Blog Post on Studying Abroad with a Physical Disability (pdf.)
KU student, Maiya Schroeder, blog post on preparing to study abroad with a physical disability.
KU Academic Achievement and Access Center
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 Clearninghouse on Disability Exchange - by Mobility International USA. A comprehensive one-stop resource for people with disabilities, exchange and disability staff interested in study, work, intern, volunteer, research or teach abroad programs.
- Personal stories- Stories excerpted from A World Awaits You (AWAY), a free, annual journal of stories by people with disabilities who have participated in a wide range of international exchange programs. Published by Mobility International USA.
- Financial Resources for students with disabilities - An extensive listing of fellowships, scholarships, and other financial resources for individuals with disabilities to help fund study abroad and other international opportunities.
Every country has different attitudes to people with disabilities. Resources for students with disabilities who study abroad.
Support for Students with Disabilities
Resources for students with disabilities who study abroad. Sponsored by SAFETI Clearinghouse.
Traveling with Disabilities
Travel.State.Gov tips and resources for students who travel abroad.
University of Minnesota's Access Abroad
Resource for students with disabilities and study abroad. Materials were developed as part of a federally funded project and seeks to enhance existing study abroad opportunities for students with disabilities.
Transitions Abroad: Disability Travel
A collection of first-hand articles, websites and agencies by this award-winning, respected travel magazine.