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Tip Sheets
Accessible western style toilet with a grab bar and space next to the toilet where foldable mounted shower chair pulls down with handheld shower hose

Accessible Toilets When You Go Abroad

Do you have fears or concerns about not being able to use the bathroom when on an international exchange program? Fortunately, people with disabilities have lived, volunteered and studied in some of the most remote areas on Earth and have shared their strategies for handling challenging bathroom situations.

Tip Sheets
Woman in a manual wheelchair gets assistance down a ramp outside a carved wooden door

Should You Bring a Manual or Power Wheelchair?

For wheelchair users, trying to decide between the portability of a manual chair and the independence of a power chair can be a difficult decision. Some travelers choose to bring both in order to use a power wheelchair as a primary means of mobility while having a back-up manual wheelchair with them just in case.

Tip Sheets
Two exchange participants of diverse backgrounds smile in the camera: A power wheelchair user and a woman of short stature

Charging Your Battery Abroad

When you've just arrived in a foreign country after a long flight, the last thing you want to hear is that there is a glitch with your wheelchair battery. So what do you need to do?

First, know that most countries use electricity at approximately 220 volts/50 hertz, while North America (along with Central America and part of Japan) uses 110 volts/ 60 hertz. If electronic or electrical equipment is used with the wrong voltage, it can be severely damaged, pose a fire or electrocution hazard, or not charge properly.

Tip Sheets
Three people, including the wheelchair user, lean over to check out the axel of her manual wheelchair

10 Ways To Avoid Broken Equipment

Adapting mobility equipment you use for a new environment and preparing for potential breakdowns and repairs can go a long way towards ensuring a hassle-free, rewarding international experience.

Tip Sheets
A man pushes himself in his manual wheelchair with luggage on top his lap at a Swedish train station

Choosing the Right Luggage (Without the Baggage!)

Traveling internationally with a mobility disability may be smoother by choosing luggage that fits you. Try experimenting before making a new luggage purchase to see what is most comfortable to transport on your own or what is best to protect your equipment when others handle it.

Tip Sheets
Two men on each side lift the frame of Susan's wheelchair up a short step

Lifting and Transferring People with Physical Disabilities

Being carried is an uncomfortable experience for many with disabilities, both physically and emotionally. Lifting a person up stairs or around obstacles is not an acceptable alternative to appropriate accessibility measures. Most people prefer to be lifted only as a last resort.

Tip Sheets
a portable ramp with handrails

Inaccessible? Ramp it!

The slope of a ramp should be no greater than 1:12, which is 12 feet (or meters) of horizontal ramp for every 1 foot (or meter) of vertical height. Some people with disabilities can use personal ramps that are shorter and steeper than 1:12. Before building a short ramp to provide access for a person with a disability, discuss whether a steeper ramp would work for that individual.

Tip Sheets
Collage of photos showing Shea interacting with fellow students on the set of a movie

Quick Tips for Personal Assistant Services Abroad

Get funding

There are a variety of methods to cover the costs of a personal assistant. Disabled travelers may save up money through work-study. A community fundraiser using an online tool like GoFundMe can also be a good way to find funding.

Showing that the international exchange is part of an Individualized Employment Plan (IEP), an exchange participant might get funding from The Department of Vocational Rehabilitation for a personal assistant.

Personal Stories
Collage of an ID badge showing Justin; a Hong Kong stamp; sticker of a pelican; photo of Justin in an orchard

Community Colleges Open Doors

View this article as it appears in the AWAY journal (PDF).

When Justin, a man with left hip dysplasia, did not make it into the University of Hong Kong, he was in good company. Since the government fixes the number of spots available for local students enrolling in the highly coveted public university system, space is limited. In a given year, only around 20% of applicants make it. That means 80% don't.

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