Disability Accommodations in International Contexts

Wheelchair user on a lift from a bus
Disability accommodations are open to interpretation, even in the U.S.

What does the word, accommodations, mean to you as a person with a disability in the U.S.? What types of services and supports are generally recognized as accommodations for a particular disability?

While programs in some countries require a formal documentation process in order to provide disability accommodations according to local and/or national laws, programs in other countries might rely on your informal conversation with the program staff to find out about what you need and why.

Yet another method for accessing disability accommodations might be that host families and friends in the country are responsible for arranging and supporting your needs.

Because disability can be seen as a stigma or laws unenforced in some countries, you may find that some people with disabilities do not disclose their disability and do not receive accommodations due to a fear of discrimination or lack of support. In the U.S. and other countries, legal protections are enforced to protect people with disabilities from discrimination and to facilitate access to resources that allow greater independence.  

Accommodations that are commonly used in the U.S. may not be available in other countries. Reasons for this include:

  • Your country or program of choice may lack basic services or infrastructure, such as sign language interpreters or wheelchair accessible transportation.
  • Your preferred accommodations may be costly, and the program may decline to pay for them or pay for only part of them.
  • The country you plan to visit uses different accommodations, technology, or strategies than you are used to at home.
  • Your preferred accommodations may not be legal or available in the country you plan to visit. For example, some medications for ADHD that are commonly used in the United States are illegal in other countries.

In learning more about the provision of disability accommodations in the countries you plan to visit, you can begin to identify potential access barriers and how you can proactively address them.