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

nfographic: "Study Abroad Students: Type of Disability, 2016/2017" Graphic of people with all types of disabilities strolling along a moving walkway. Data under each disability type: 2.0% Autism Spectrum Disorder 4.5% Physical Disability 4.4% Sensory Disability 5.6% Other Disability 16.8% Chronic Health Disorder 32.4% Mental Disability 34.3% Learning Disability  *This is the first year that Autism Spectrum Disorder and Chronic Health Disorder were categories in the survey. **In 2014/2015 the Other Disabilit
Percentage of students with disabilities in study abroad reported during International Education Week 2018.

The Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange shows that among U.S. post-secondary institutions, where the disability status of study abroad students is known, 8.5% of study abroad students had disabilities in 2016/17.

10 Years of Progress:

The Open Doors Report first reported data on students with disabilities in 2006/2007. The data most recently released marks 10 years of disability data being collected and there are many highlights to share. The information below compares data collected in the 2006/07 report versus the 2016/17 report most recently released. Highlights include: 

  • Increase in total students with disabilities reported with a disability who studied abroad 
  • % of students with disabilities participating in study abroad up from 2.6% to 8.5%
  • # of institutions reporting disability data up from 116 to 380

Students with disabilities typically represent 11% of the student population on U.S. campuses (2016 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 is:

  • Learning Disability (34.3%)
  • Mental Disability (32.4%)
  • Physical Disability (4.5%)
  • Sensory Disability (4.4%)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (2.0 %)*
  • Chronic Health Disorder (16.8%)*
  • Other Disability (5.6%)
  • Total (100%)

*new categories

Since the "Other" disability category had grown to 20.7% in the 2014/15 report, new disability categories, Chronic Health Disorder and Autism Spectrum Disorder, were identified and added to the survey in recent data collection. This may have contributed to more students with disabilities being recognized and counted in the survey to paint a fuller picture of representation. The "Other" disability category decreased significantly since adding the two additional categories.

As more students with chronic health conditions (e.g. diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, etc.) are recognized as participating, it is important to ensure inclusion from the start, such as in the negotiation of pre-existing condition coverage in group health insurance plans and flexibility 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, sponsored by U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. This is the tenth 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 is project of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, designed to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange between the United States and other countries, and is supported in its implementation by Mobility International USA. We are also a Generation Study Abroad commitment partner. 

This article is part of the AWAY Journal - Champions for Inclusion Issue.