UFIC and the Disability Resource Center (DRC) are committed to helping students with disabilities study abroad. However, just as culture, norms, and laws vary from country to country, so do perceptions of those with disabilities and what accommodations are possible. UFIC can always work with program faculty, providers, and foreign institutions to see what’s possible for the program that you’re interested in, although the extent to which accommodations can be provided depends on several factors. These include the specific accommodations needed, the general accessibility of the host city/country, available resources and services, and the flexibility and dedication of everyone involved. In some cases additional costs, incurred on your own behalf, may also be necessary in order to accommodate special living, study, and/or travel arrangements.

If assistance is needed while traveling and/or for the entire duration of the study abroad program, it should be planned well in advance. It is also important to note that certain disability-related equipment, medications, and supplies may not be readily available overseas. You should research in advance what is generally available in your host country, as well as the regulations for bringing medications or support/service animals in. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to bring sufficient supplies for the entire duration of your program. Helpful information about accommodations abroad can be found on the website Mobility International USA.

Important Considerations

For any student, an important part of the study abroad process is careful research of a potential program and location. Your Study Abroad Advisor will be able to assist you in exploring and evaluating the many study abroad programs available and which could be a good fit for you. In addition to academic and personal considerations, students with disabilities may have special considerations in selecting a program, such as:

  • How do people in my intended host country define “disability”?
  • Are there local laws or policies in place related to people with disabilities?
  • Is this city/country accessible for students with physical disabilities?
    • What housing options are provided or available? Does the building have elevators? How big are the doorways and rooms? What is the bathroom situation?
    • How accessible is my host university’s campus and classrooms?
    • Is there accessible transportation available, either public or private?
    • What are the general conditions of public sidewalks and streets?
    • Does my program’s curriculum involve rigorous physical activity such as hiking, snorkeling, etc.?
    • Will I have access to professionals who can repair my equipment, if necessary (eg. auxiliary aids)?
    • How will my airline assist me in flight from the U.S. to my host country (and back)? Can someone accompany me from security to the gate? Is pre-boarding available? Wheelchair transportation? How long will the flight be and what is the airplane’s general layout?
  • Is this city/country accessible for students with learning or other disabilities?
  • What will my coursework be like? What are the typical methods of instruction and examination? Are interpreter and/or captioning services available?
  • Are counseling services available on the program?
  • Are support staff available, who will understand my needs?
  • What potential expenses will be involved with the accommodations I need? How will these costs be covered or supported?
  • Would it be possible for me to bring a support or service animal abroad? Are there policies in place with my program/in my host country that will support this? What flight arrangements will be possible?
  • Will I need a caretaker to travel with me? If so, would they be present for the entire program or just for travel? What accommodation is needed for them? Will they be able to obtain any necessary paperwork prior to travel (e.g. visa, passport)?
  • How will I handle my medications while abroad? Are the medications I need to take legal in my host country? Are they readily available for purchase abroad or should I bring an ample supply with me? What is the process for getting these medications across the border (e.g. TSA)?

Requesting Accommodations

You are by no means required to inform UFIC of your disability(s), however, doing so will help us and other key program staff assess your needs and determine what’s possible. If it is something you’re interested in, please begin the request process as soon as possible as many accommodations require significant planning. Potential accommodations you may need for a study abroad program include, but are not limited to: wheelchair accessibility, visual aids, note-taking, extended test-taking time, sign language interpreters, assistive technology, refrigeration for medication, and/or a reduced course load.

Before speaking with a Study Abroad Advisor about potential accommodations, we encourage you to first have an appointment with the DRC. During this meeting, discuss your plans for study abroad and ask for a study abroad-specific accommodation letter. The DRC will help you fill this letter out based on both your registration with them and any special needs that study abroad may bring about. Having this letter when you meet with Study Abroad will help us to have a better idea of your needs. It does not guarantee that accommodations can be made, but it helps greatly in those efforts. Note that the letter is kept confidential but may need to be shared with others involved with your study abroad program, such as a program director or host university.

In addition to the information provided above, we hope that some of these resources can be helpful or reassuring to you in your pursuit of study abroad. Also remember that you can always reach out to our office or the DRC with questions or concerns.