The number of students with disabilities attending college is on the rise and study abroad offices should be prepared to support this growing population. Improving access to international opportunities for students with disabilities requires the cooperative efforts of disability and study abroad professionals. Each side has their own expertise to contribute to the equation.
What is a Disability?
A disability is defined as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (including, but not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, working, and operation of a major bodily function).
~ADA 1990; ADAAA 2008
Visit the Disbility Resource Center's page for information on common disabilities.
Resources for International Education & Disability Professionals
- Online Training Module for International Educators: An online module that provides an overview of key considerations when working with students with disabilities.
- Student Advising: Suggestions for how Disability and Study Abroad offices can work together to facilitate successful international experiences for students with disabilities.
- Program Promotion: What's the best way to promote study abroad to reach students with disabilities and encourage early disclosure of disability needs?
- Roles and Responsibilities: Find answers here to some of the questions that often arise when students with disabilities participate in study abroad.
- Determining Site Accessibility: How to determine to what extent your institution's study abroad sites are accessible, and for what types of disabilities. A comprehensive questionnaire or the summary questionnaire are helpful tools to use.
- Student Accommodation Request Form: Access Consultants from the Disability Resource Center complete this form with the student and send to The Learning Abroad Center. Please contact Peggy Retka for a copy of the accompanying Professionals' Guide.
- Homestay Considerations: Tips for study abroad advisers arranging homestays for students with disabilities and guidelines for the families who host them.
- Student Resources: Resources and considerations for students with disabilities interested in studying abroad.
Resources & Tips for Study Abroad Advisers
- Present All Options: Let the student decide which programs best match their personal, professional and academic goals.
- Be Objective: Describe all aspects of accessibility, good and bad.
- Keep an Open-Mind: What is perceived as a barrier can have a simple, creative solution.
- Collaborate with Your Disability Resource Center Office: Determining accommodations for study abroad requires the cooperative efforts of both study abroad staff and disability specialists.
Resources & Tips for Disability Specialists
- Keep an Open-Mind: What is considered standard in the US may not be available overseas. When a particular accommodation is not available, be creative and open to different solutions.
- Think Ahead: Even if students feel that little or no accommodation is needed overseas, help them think about how the new environment and culture affects their accommodation needs.
- Be supportive: The international experience can be unsettling for any student. Students can be susceptible to stress and should have a plan in place in case symptoms arise.
- Collaborate with Overseas Staff: On-site staff may need more information about an accommodation than would normally be discussed with a professor.