Track Students with Disabilities in Your Study Abroad Reporting

Word cloud featuring the phrase "Student with" surrounded by diverse types of disabilities
"Disability" is a broad term that includes mental health and chronic health conditions.
The question remains: How many students with disabilities are going abroad each year, and what types of disabilities are represented?

Through the Open Doors® survey compiled annually by the Institute on International Education, we have a general snapshot of how many U.S. college students with disabilities study abroad and their disability types. But until more U.S. higher education institutions respond with these disability statistics, we won't have a complete picture. Your institution is needed to bring the snapshot into greater focus!

To do this, help ensure that your institution responds to the Open Doors® survey, including its two questions about students with disabilities going abroad.

At first glance, calculating how many students with disabilities have participated in education abroad in any given year may seem difficult, but what you may not realize is that your institution may already be collecting this data! Use the following checklist to gather the data you need.

Checklist on Disability Data Collection

Do you gather health/accommodation forms?

  • Ask your disability services office to help you learn how to classify the information on the forms into type of disability.
  • Develop a process through which you can enter the information into a confidential database or locked spreadsheet.
  • Require students studying in third-party provider programs to fill out standardized forms or ask department-led programs to use these forms and report back.

Do you gather student intake forms?

  • If the form is filled in during or before the application stage, make reporting a disability optional.
  • Consider asking all demographic questions, including disability, post-acceptance -- assuring students that the information is not used to determine eligibility.

Do you work with your disability, health, or counseling office?

  • Direct students in several places on your education abroad forms to meet with the disability, health or counseling office if they would like accommodations abroad.
  • Provide the disability, health, or counseling office with a list of all education abroad students so they may cross-check it with their database. These offices can report the total number of students and the number for each disability category while maintaining the confidentiality of individual students.
  • Find out if the disability office is connected to the institutional database.

Do you work with your Office of Institutional Research?

  • Find out if the centralized database can keep disability and education abroad data.
  • Ask a person with clearance to view both disability and education abroad data in the centralized database to assist with the number count.

How Other Institutions Collect Data

Linfield College collects data from student health information forms. This is possible because after students are admitted to their overseas programs, they are asked to disclose their disabilities so that staff can provide adequate support both pre-departure and abroad.

Purdue University's disability resource center uses an education abroad list to tally numbers from their database of registered students with disabilities.

San Diego State University sends their education abroad students' school identification numbers to the registrar's office and receives a tally back of the number of listed students who also receive disability support services.

Other ideas or good practices? Share them with us!

Refer to related links to learn more about recent Open Doors® statistics on disability and how knowing more about the participation of U.S. students with disabilities in education abroad can help us all improve opportunities for these students.

Adapted from the article "Tracking Students with Disabilities Who Study Abroad" by Michele Scheib, which appeared in the International Educator (Mar/Apr 2009).

The Institute of International Education (IIE)'s annual Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange® survey is supported by a grant from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.