Resource Library

Tip Sheets
A Bahraini man in cultural dress stands with an American man.

Cultural Differences in the U.S. and Abroad

Part of the wonders of traveling include experiencing other people's cultures, including their habits, values, interests, beliefs, and preferences. It takes time for any traveler to learn and adjust to differences in the host culture, and autistic travelers may want to research some specific ways in which the local host culture might impact their routines or preferences. Think about how you might adapt if you traveled to a country that had major cultural differences related to time and punctuality, leisure and schedules, and body language.

Tip Sheets
Distant view of a man standing on oceanside boulders with arms outstretched

"Why I'm Glad I Went Abroad": Autistic Travelers Share Top 10 Reasons

Are you eager to get foreign language immersion and to gain new skills for problem-solving and independent living? We asked several students on the autism spectrum to talk about the benefits they gained from studying abroad. Consider the many ways in which international exchange can enrich your life.

Tip Sheets
An assortment of foreign currencies are scattered on a table.

VR & International Exchange

You can use your Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funds towards international academic exchange expenses. Learn how to include study abroad in your VR Plan.

Tip Sheets
A young woman wearing sari material as she uses a wheelchair is petting several animals in a local courtyard.

College/University Programs

Each year, thousands of American undergraduate and graduate students with and without disabilities travel abroad on international academic exchange programs. These students are brushing up on new languages, advancing their cross-cultural awareness, and building valuable independence - all skills that make a hearty resume for future employment opportunities. You can, too!

Tip Sheets
A girl smiles in mid-year at a point overlooking a city in Italy.

Disability Disclosure 101

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.

Tip Sheets
An assortment of foreign currencies are scattered on a table.

Identify Your Funding Options

Funding can make or break a dream to explore the world. Almost everyone worries about how they will be able to afford the costs associated with international travel. Get ready to learn about many ideas that people just like you have used to make their dream a reality.

Tip Sheets
An assortment of foreign currencies are scattered on a table.

SSI, SSDI & International Exchange

As you investigate all funding possibilities, be sure to keep in mind any income or benefits that you are currently receiving in the U.S. There’s a possibility you may be able to use these towards your international exchange opportunity.

"While preparing to study abroad in England, I was concerned about how much it was going to cost. I was receiving SSI benefits and involved with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), and remained eligible for the year I was in England." - Beth Ocrant, who has a vision disability

Tip Sheets
A group of four women are communicating with each other in sign language.

Locating Sign Language Interpreters in Non-U.S. Countries

In some cases, international exchange programs who are supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing U.S. citizens abroad may decide to hire sign language interpreters in the destination country. Benefits may include reduced costs and the use of interpreters who have a familiar knowledge of the local language, culture, and Deaf community. However, be aware that most in-country sign language interpreters are trained only in the sign language of that country.

The following resources may be useful to you in locating a sign language interpreter in a non-U.S. country.

Tip Sheets
A caucasian American man talks to a classroom of Chinese female students.

Getting the Conversation Started: Learning Disabilities

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. 

Tip Sheets
Two young women of color have their arms clasped and are smiling brightly for the photo.

High School Programs

It might be going abroad for a high school field trip, volunteering on a church mission trip, or participating in a State Department-sponsored program. You can find a lot of fun programs to see the world and gain new experiences!

Youth with disabilities use these international experiences to help build important skills that make them more competitive for post-secondary employment and education opportunities.

Additionally, participation in international exchange can lead to:

Tip Sheets
A young American woman seated on a yak signs "I love you" in sign language.

Disability Culture Around the World

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.

Tip Sheets
Megan close up in black and white, looking over her shoulder

Using Power Wheelchairs Abroad

As my fellow disabled travelers may know, total equipment failure can happen anywhere. While most people were reading the stories of Camilo José Cela on a warm bench surrounded by freesia, I spent the majority of my time getting down and dirty in the mechanic shops of Seville, Spain, where I was studying abroad for 8 months.

Tip Sheets
A young woman sits atop a wooly yak with a lake and mountains in the background.

Disability-Specific Preparations: From Fatigue to Sensitivities

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!

Tip Sheets
A young blind American man backpacks through the countryside.

Disability Resources A - Z

Whatever your disability, know that it is possible to travel abroad to study, volunteer, intern, or explore your professional interests.

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