Advancing disability rights and leadership globally®

Preparing to Go Abroad with a Disability

Two young American women smile looking over their shoulders.
Two young American women smile looking over their shoulders.

Three ways you can help make a smooth transition into your international exchange experience are disclosing your disability, being your own advocate, and determining disability accommodations for access.

As you prepare for disability-related aspects of your international exchange experience, you might find yourself facing questions such as:

  • Is it necessary for me to disclose my disability?
  • If I plan to disclose my disability, what is the best process for disclosing?
  • How do I request and/or negotiate accommodations?
  • Who pays for my accommodations?
  • What if the accommodations I typically use are not available where I want to go?
  • What are my rights in international exchange?

While it can be challenging to anticipate and address all of these questions, know that the end result is the experience of a lifetime! And, as many individuals who have traveled abroad with a disability can attest to, the work you do to prepare now can make going abroad a much smoother experience. 

Disclosing Your Disability

As a person with a disability, it’s your choice whether or not to disclose your disability during the process of preparing to go abroad. But, as many individuals with disabilities who have participated in international exchange know, you are most likely to build a strong support network if you are clear about your disability-related needs from the beginning of the planning process.

And, while disclosing your disability is not required to participate in an international exchange, it will be necessary if you need accommodations to independently participate in the experience. If you plan to disclose in order to receive accommodations, the sooner you disclose, the better!

Being Your Own Advocate

Some international exchange programs have never had an individual with a disability participate. You have a chance to positively impact the program and their staff by advocating for your needs. Doing so can facilitate more people with disabilities participating in that program in the future. If you come up against significant issues, we are here to offer advice and strategies for your success.

Determining Accommodations

Which accommodations do you absolutely need in order to participate in an international exchange experience? If the accommodations you usually use aren’t available or if there are obstacles to using them, are there creative options you can consider instead?

There are likely local advocates with disabilities who can provide insight on disability accessibility in their country. If you’re having trouble determining what is available, research disability-specific organizations in the country you are interested in and start asking questions!

Planning for Success

By collaborating with exchange staff and your support networks to plan for your disability-related needs, you can ensure that all pieces are in place for a successful international exchange experience. And, should something not work out quite as you expect, don’t worry! We’re here to support you in problem-solving and finding creative ways to address challenges. 

Check out the Table of Contents to learn more about preparing for disability-related aspects of your exchange experience.

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