Do I have to disclose my disability?
Short Answer: No, you are not required to disclose your disability when you apply for or at any point in an international exchange program. If you do not need specific accommodations, you can choose not to disclose your disability.
Long Answer: If you require accommodations or other types of support that will facilitate your success in an international exchange program, you will likely need to disclose your disability. Many exchange program policies require documentation of a disability in order to provide specific accommodations.
Check out the suggested tips and strategies below that can help make international exchange a possibility for you.
Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion.
The experience of traveling to a different country can result in “culture shock” for anyone, disability or not! You might also experience an additional layer of cultural adjustment related to attitudes around disability. As an American traveler with a disability, you may experience positive and negative cultural disability differences.
Use these at-a-glance tips for going abroad with specific chronic health or systemic health conditions, such as chronic fatigue to environmental sensitivities and more. Don't forget to browse our resource library for more detailed advice on many of these topics!
From health care coverage to stress-busters, prepare for issues that might arise when traveling with a chronic health condition.
"Being disabled doesn't mean I have to give up on my dreams," explains Emily Block, who studied abroad in over a dozen countries on the Semester at Sea program, all while managing a rare chronic health condition.
As a person with a chronic or acute health condition, also known as systemic disability, you have the right to apply for the same kinds of life-changing experiences overseas as everyone else!
Have you ever felt like an anthropologist, having to figure out the social habits of those around you? Have you ever had to find new ways to communicate with other people, or had to interpret the slang or figures of speech used by other people? These can be common experiences for people on the autism spectrum, but they are also very common experiences for international exchange travelers! Why not be both?
Through the use of a variety of accommodations, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals participate fully in a variety of international exchange experiences. No individual is completely alike - the accommodations that prove useful for one individual may not be relevant to others due to variations in hearing levels, identity, and communication preferences. When immersed in a new culture, Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals can struggle with new accents, languages, and listening environments. Learn some of the most commonly used accommodations.
I first got involved as a homestay host in my city of Akron, Ohio when a fellow member of the National Association of the Physically Handicapped (NAPH) contacted my housemate and asked if we would be interested in hosting someone through Global Ties Akron.
In the past, I have hosted international guests for dinner. Although those occasions were only a couple of hours, our time together was very worthwhile. It was very interesting to talk to doctors from Vietnam and a delegation from Kyrgyzstan, who told us about the services for people with disabilities in their countries.
While I was excited about the opportunity to go abroad to Costa Rica on an exchange program, as a disabled person I worried about how my experience getting on and off the plane would be.
I learned quickly that airline personnel don’t always know what to do when it comes to helping to transfer a person with a disability. Although they may have received formal training, it is different having to help in a real situation. Each person with a disability is different, and what may work for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. Here are four tips that have worked for me:
At some point in your international travels, you may come upon a flight of stairs that need scaling, whether out of necessity (e.g. exiting a Parisian metro stop with a broken lift) or sheer desire (mounting the last bit of the Eiffel Tower for an incredible view). If you will need assistance from others to lift you and your wheelchair, there are some ways to make this tricky situation a little less harrowing.
You need to access the same information as everyone else who is on your exchange program or when navigating your new adventures overseas. The differences from home may mean you need to learn contracted Braille or specialized symbols specific to a foreign language.
You know your own medication dosages and medical history the best. So, it's up to you to research how to manage your medications when traveling outside your country. Talk with your home doctor and insurance company who can answer questions. In some cases, you may have an international travel clinic or travel insurance providers to consult.
Studying or volunteering abroad can open not just new adventures and cultures to you, but lessons that give you new perspectives even after returning home. Appreciating the moment. Accepting new ways of doing things. Finding your personal drive or independence. These are all what exchange alumni living with mental health conditions say are ways they grew while abroad.