Simply being available to travel wasn't enough to meet U.S. student Lauren Presutti's criteria for providing personal assistance during her studies abroad to Australia. "It was crucial for me to find the right two people who I felt most comfortable with and who I could completely trust," says Lauren of what made her time abroad a success.
Promoting a sense of trust and confidence between you and your personal assistant (PA) begins with establishing clear roles and responsibilities for what is expected of each other while you're abroad. Begin now.
There are many unknowns when preparing for an exchange experience in another country, especially when it comes to figuring out how you'll get what you need to be independent. Getting from place to place, taking care of yourself, and getting assistance when needed are all part of the equation.
Not sure whether you will need personal assistance services (PAS) during your international experience or not? Ask yourself these questions to help inform your decision.
Personal assistance during your international exchange can come from a wide variety of sources, whether a hired professional, a friend or family member, a fellow traveler or even a friendly local. Weigh the potential pros and cons of your options to find the best fit for you.
The logistics of overseas travel can be a challenge, even for the most intrepid traveler with a disability. Experience is an effective teacher to help you learn strategies for handling flights, customs procedures, and other aspects of entering a foreign country.
As a person with a disability, you have the right to participate in the same international exchange opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. You may decide that you want to participate in an exchange program that is not specifically focused on the topic of disability, such as one focused on Japanese culture, public health, or the performing arts.
All passengers must undergo a security screening process – be patient and cooperative, but know your rights. Also allow more time for additional screening if needed.
You have made all your preparations for an international journey, and you don't want to see it delayed due to flight problems. Learn about your rights, and who to talk to if you have questions or issues.
Whether at home or abroad, personal assistance services (PAS) provide a way for some people with disabilities to fully participate in all areas of community living. Sometimes called a personal care attendant (PCA), a personal assistant (PA) assists a person with a disability to do the things she would do for herself if she did not have a disability or had other ways to accomplish the task without human assistance. This could involve:
The experience of being in a completely new environment, disability or not, can be very challenging. As a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person, these new environments may present communication challenges that you haven’t experienced before.
What does the word, accommodations, mean to you as a person with a disability in the U.S.? What types of services and supports are generally recognized as accommodations for a particular disability?
While programs in some countries require a formal documentation process in order to provide disability accommodations according to local and/or national laws, programs in other countries might rely on your informal conversation with the program staff to find out about what you need and why.
Participants who receive funding for a personal assistant through Medicaid or other government support are not able to use that funding once outside their home country. Travel insurance companies typically do not pay for personal assistants for daily care overseas or durable medical equipment that is not related to a first occurrence of an illness or injury overseas.
Since these costs are unlikely to be covered for people with existing needs, exchange programs or institutions should work with a participant to cover the costs.
If you are a Medicaid recipient, you may be dropped from enrollment in the medical plans if you do not keep a U.S. state residence or address or if you lose your SSI eligibility (see our tipsheet on "SSI, SSDI & International Exchange" for more). Loss of enrollment creates a gap of coverage upon return home from traveling abroad, especially if the travel health insurance does not cover you in your home country.
Know what options exist or how to plan for health coverage while on an exchange program if you have pre-existing conditions or need ongoing medications and treatment while abroad.
Plans offered to international exchange participants for less than a year of coverage are not fully licensed products so changes to U.S. health laws through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) do not apply. These plans can increase costs, have pre-existing condition exclusions, or deny enrollment to an individual based on health status.
As a deaf or hard of hearing person, you have the right to apply for and participate in any type of international exchange program for which you are otherwise eligible, so look for those which match your interests and goals! International exchange program providers and universities have worked with many participants to arrange sign language interpreters abroad, real-time captioning, CART and other forms of communication access.