Students with Disabilities in Education Abroad Statistics

Ethnically diverse study abroad students with disabilities
The number of students with disabilities participating in study abroad is likely to increase in the coming years - be ready for them! These surveys look at overall satisfaction, disability supports, and participation levels of students with disabilities.

What % of U.S. Students Study Abroad During College?

Among Non-Disabled Students - 15.6% study abroad

Among Students with Disabilities - 15.6% study abroad

This shows equal representation between students with and without disabilities in participating in study abroad. When taking a closer look, students with specific disabilities are participating at even greater rates than their fellow students, while others are less represented than their peers.

Among students on campus with each of the following disabilities, the percentage of each group who chose to study abroad are:

  • Mental Health Disabilities, 19.6%
  • Learning Disabilities, 17.4%
  • “Multiple” Disabilities, 13.5%
  • Sensory Disabilities, 13.0%
  • "Other" Disabilities, 11.2%
  • Mobility Disabilities, 7.5%

U.S. college seniors with sensory, mobility, multiple, or "other" types of disabilities are more likely to be underrepresented in study abroad. How are you reaching them? When looking at just the 3,293 disabled study abroad alumni, the breakdown of disability types is:

  • Mental Health Disabilities 34%
  • Learning Disabilities 31%
  • Multiple Disabilities 19%
  • Other Disabilities 9%
  • Sensory Disabilities 5%
  • Mobility Disabilities 2%

Two-thirds of students with disabilities in study abroad have mental or learning disabilities. This means attention is focused on how best to include them at all stages of the expeirence. The focus on how to reach the underrepresented students with disabilities, especially those with mobility disabilities, needs more investment on the recruitment side.

Data from the National Survey on Student Engagement, 2017 online survey of first and senior year post-secondary students in the United States. Based on 22,220 non-disabled students and 3,293 disabled senior year students who studied abroad. Sensory disabilities includes Blind/Low Vision, Deaf/Hard of Hearing, DeafBlind, etc.

How Satisfied are U.S. Students with Disabilities in Study Abroad?

The majority (82%) of U.S. study abroad college students who use disability services reported they are satisfied with overall learning, living, and support services overseas.

Compared to other students in the survey, those who use disability services give only slightly lower ratings to learning, living and support when studying abroad. Learning overseas shows the greatest difference (78% for those using disability services vs. 84% for all others in survey).

This data is based on over 251 students who use disability services vs. 4,022 other students in i-graduate’s International Student Barometer 2015, a globally benchmarked study of international students.

Satisfaction with Disability Supports Overseas

  • 89% satisfaction with disability support
  • 85% satisfaction with the health centers
  • 82% satisfaction with learning support
  • 76% satisfaction with counseling service

Similar to other students in the survey, U.S. study abroad students who use disability services give the highest satisfaction ratings (over 90%) to: academics' whose level of English is understandable, subject area expertise of professors, campus environment, opportunities to experience the host culture, surroundings off-campus are good, feelings of safety and security, university clubs/societies, IT support, and students'union.

U.S. study abroad students, regardless of if they use disability services, are least satisfied (less than 60%) with: financial support, earning money, living costs, housing costs, work experience, and career advice.

Areas where students who use disability services are less satisfied (more than 10%) than other U.S. study abroad respondents include: on arrival understanding how my program of study would work, registration for classes, program organization, and guidance in topic selection at the graduate level.

This analysis is based on a smaller number of students in all categories in i-graduate’s International Student Barometer 2015, a globally benchmarked study of international students.

How are U.S. Disability Services Supporting Students in Study Abroad?

While more study abroad and disability offices are collaborating together on campuses, there are still questions that come up that need outside input. Here are some topics that come up the most in seeking solutions:

  • 15% Logistics for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Study Abroad Students
  • 12% Logistics for Study Abroad Students with Mobility Disabilities
  • 12% Policy & Procedures for Study Abroad 
  • 10% Legal & Liability Issues in Study Abroad
  • 7% Logistics for Study Abroad Students with Non-Apparent Disabilities  
  • 5% Who Pays for Disability Accommodations Abroad
  • 5% Logistics for Blind and Low Vision Study Abroad Students   
  • 4% International Student Related (not study abroad but incoming students)
  • 4% How to Encourage Students to Go Abroad
  • 4% Disability Contacts for Travel

The remaining requests were miscellaenous. Based on 356 requests to the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange between October 1998 to June 2015. 75% of the requests came after 2008.

Mobility International USA is a Generation Study Abroad Commitment Partner with IIE's campaign to double the number of students studying abroad by the end of the decade.