Resource Library

Tipsheet
Woman in wheelchair gets a push from a friend.

Will I Need Personal Assistance Services Abroad?

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.

Tipsheet
Close up of two young women smiling.

Who Can Assist Me When I Go Abroad?

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.

Tipsheet
A woman and her PA in Brazil

Including Participants & Personal Assistants in Your Exchange Program

Although arranging and funding personal assistance services (PAS) for international exchange participants is not required (or only limited to program activities) by the Americans with Disabilities Act, many international exchange providers go beyond the law to ensure that a participant has appropriate services in place, recognizing that:

Personal Story
People with and without disabilities flex their arms to show their strength.

Nothing Compares to "Travel with a Purpose"

When Mary Hodge, head coach of the USA Paralympic Powerlifting team, travels internationally for competition, others often approach her looking for assistance from the United States. In the past, uncertain of how to contribute beyond just money, she kept her interactions short. Now that Mary has connected with Armenians with disabilities as part of Mobility International USA (MIUSA)’s U.S. Department of State SportsUnited exchange, she has a different perspective.

Personal Story
Two African women, one a power wheelchair user, in a courtyard.

Video: Mandela Washington Fellow Envisions "Great Things" for Africa

To display captions, play the video in YouTube and click on "CC" button. For transcription with visual description, see below.

"We believe that if we come together, we can do great things," says Muluh Hilda Bih, a journalist and disability rights advocate from Cameroon who is positioning herself as a leader to motivate young Africans with and without disabilities to tackle some of the world's greatest challenges together.

Tipsheet
A young woman using a manual wheelchair hangs onto the back of a young man's power wheelchair as he pulls her along a street.

Disability-Focused International Exchanges

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.

Tipsheet
An African woman with a disability and her personal assistant walking.

Using Personal Assistance Services Abroad

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:

Tipsheet
African-American wheelchair user strolling with his exchange group in Japan

Advising Exchange Participants with Physical Disabilities

People with physical disabilities can include individuals who are amputees, of short stature or had polio, or who have cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, paraplegia, quadriplegia, spina bifida, and other disabilities.

Personal Story
Ivan and six other FLEX students smiling

Family Reflects on Hosting Students with Disabilities

The Pamperins first learned about Ivan, a Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) student from Russia, from a youth exchange organization, States’ 4-H, that places students in their area. “Ivan’s name was at the top of the list of incoming international exchange students and we noticed very quickly that he has cerebral palsy (CP).” They had previously hosted a Japanese student who uses a wheelchair.

Personal Story
Indian children walk, sit and push Anjali's wheelchair

Video: Beyond the Finish Line

Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt lives life in the fast lane - literally. But besides standing out as a competitive wheelchair racer who has competed in the Paralympic Games in Both London and Beijing, the American athlete and doctorate degree-holder gets an added rush from the travels themselves - and the opportunities they present for disability outreach. 

As a citizen diplomat, Anjali has been involved with international projects in India, Bermuda, and Ghana, where she conducted wheelchair track clinics and raised the level of awareness on disability policy and education.

Personal Story
John Winn with saxophone

Music Around the World

When my jazz quartet and I drove to New York City to audition for a U.S. Department of State Jazz Ambassadors tour, we had no idea of what to expect. Expecting the unexpected turned out to be one of the best strategies, not only for the audition, but for a successful international exchange experience we were later selected to do. We were to travel to parts of the world that none of us had ever seen. What would the people think of our music? How westernized have the countries we would be visiting become?

Personal Story
Connie takes a moment to pose with a Brazilian man in front of a historic structure.

A Glimpse into Brazil

As an undergraduate student with cerebral palsy, Connie Rivera knew that traveling to the developing world might present accessibility barriers. However the chance to gain a first-hand glimpse into Brazil's rise as an economic power meant accepting the challenge with gusto.

Personal Story
A group of students is seated in a circle around Samson as he teaches a class.

Laying the Groundwork for Success in Germany

Q&A with U.S. scholar Samson "Sam" Lim, who has dystonia, and proclaims travel is part of his DNA. Most recently, he spent a year researching Education Sciences through the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright Program.

Personal Story
Marlon and several of his classmates display serious faces as they are seated on the stairs of their high school.

In a World Far from the Philippines

Flying from the Philippines to the U.S., I thought I would be learning about American traditions and pop culture as a Youth Exchange and Study (YES) student through the U.S. State Department and AFS Intercultural Programs. Surprisingly, I also learned about myself.

Of the forty-one Filipinos embarking on a journey as young ambassadors to the United States, three of us had disabilities, including me. This was the first time I met other people my age with disabilities.

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