Statistics on U.S. College-Level Study Abroad Students with Disabilities

Wheelchair user in Prague historic square
While 322 post-secondary institutions have tracked disability status of their education abroad participants, most still do not - leaving the disability status for many education abroad students unknown.

Kicking-off International Education Week 2016, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs-sponsored Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange shows an increase in the numbers of U.S. students with disabilities studying abroad. The number of institutions reporting this data has increased by almost 50 institutions this year.

The disabled student numbers increased since last year from 3,638 to 3,831 among those institutions where the disability status of study abroad students is known - 5.3% of study abroad students had disabilities in 2013/14 which is down 0.4% from the previous year.

Students with disabilities typically represent 11% of the student population on U.S. campuses (2014 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics).

Among those institutions that know the specific disability of the study abroad participants, the breakdown shows little change from last year:

  • Learning Disability/ADD (42.1%)
  • Mental Disability (27%)
  • Other Disability (20.7%)
  • Physical Disability (5.2%)
  • Sensory Disability (5.0%

Total (100%)

The participation of students with disabilities has stagnated over the past four surveys, hovering around 5% of all study abroad participants. As the attention to removing barriers and committing more scholarships for underrepresented groups emerges as part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative, it is a prime opportunity to ensure inclusion from the start. Institutions and organizations need to make sure that students with disabilities are included in targeted outreach and kept in mind in the design of programs.

By using baseline statistics to track progress, it will help institutions to see who is and isn’t going abroad to better address barriers that may be occurring. Learn how to track education abroad students with disabilities in our Related Resources or by downloading the International Educator article under Documents. Surveys are filled out by U.S. institutions annually by mid-March.

More Information

This data is from the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. This is the eighth year IIE collected the disability study abroad data. IIE also heads the Generation Study Abroad initiative which aims to double participation in study abroad by 2020.

For statistics since the first year of collection in 2006/07, see Open Doors Data on U.S. Study Abroad: Students with Disabilities in the Related Links.

The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange (NCDE), which is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and administered by Mobility International USA, provides free information and referral services to increase the participation and inclusion of people with disabilities in international exchange programs. We are also a Generation Study Abroad member.