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Tip Sheets
A group of male international college students communicate in sign language. One wears a Gallaudet t-shirt.

"Which College is Right for Me?"

Any college or university is a potential match for an international student or scholar with a disability. Learn which factors to consider when browsing institutions, and follow next steps for applying to your dream school.

Tip Sheets
The sign with the symbol for wheelchair access is posted on a brick wall outside of a building.

Accessibility at U.S. Colleges and Universities

The United States has thousands of colleges and universities across the country. Each is unique in its own way, but all schools have something in common: they cannot discriminate against anyone due to his or her disability. 

U.S. schools are responsible for making their courses, campus, activities and services accessible to people with disabilities. This includes physical access to college buildings, transportation, housing, and other facilities.

Tip Sheets
A girl is seated at a computer and having a conversation via video relay.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing Accommodations

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.

Tip Sheets
MIUSA delegate by the Dead Sea in Jordan

Where Should I Go Abroad? Well, it Depends

The criteria of what makes a place a good fit for someone with a disability is also what makes a place good for someone without a disability. However, for many people with disabilities, this question taps into fundamental issues of rights and personal choice.

You have the right to study in an historic town with cobblestones that make for a bumpy wheelchair ride or a world famous city like Bangkok where the traffic patterns seemingly pose a risk for someone who is blind. People with disabilities live in every community, so there is no “best country”.

Personal Stories
Temple and gardens

Touching Down in Taiwan

When Molly Rogers was a professor at the University of Oregon, she visited the island of Penghu, Taiwan, to present a paper on Kansei Engineering and Emotion Research, it was the first time she’d traveled solo since becoming a wheelchair user. Molly, who is a member of Mobility International USA’s board of directors, was excited to visit a new place, but also admitted to being a little nervous.

“Taiwan is a very long way from home, and I don’t read or speak the language,” she says. “I knew I would have to rely entirely on myself to solve problems or get to places I wanted to go.”

Personal Stories
Guida Leicester in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Nothing About Us Without Us

When Guida Leicester arrived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for a six week program through a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Summer Fellowship, one thing quickly became apparent to her. “The staff and faculty had discussed what I could and could not do, but they had failed to include me in the conversation.”

Personal Stories
Three women in hardhats holding up gardening tools

The Dual Impact of Volunteering Abroad

Whether it’s working within the coffee fields of Costa Rica or teaching English to children in Nepal, volunteers with disabilities have made their presence known as contributory global citizens. It could be said that volunteers with disabilities bring an additional contribution to the international communities where they volunteer, and this is the understanding of ‘inter-dependence’.

Contrary to what many may think, asking for assistance or accommodation when volunteering abroad as a disabled person may positively contribute to the volunteer experience.

Personal Stories
Megan Smith being carried on a man's back in Nepal

By Donkey, by Camel, by Man

When I first discussed going abroad with my family and friends, their first comment was: “That’s wonderful, but how are you going to travel alone in a wheelchair, in a power wheelchair no less?” When I added that my destination was not Canada or Europe, but rather a developing country in South America, this seemed to further solidify their view that it would be impossible for me to travel in a power wheelchair.

Personal Stories
Buildings in Spain

Barriers of the Worst Kind

“A barrier is of ideas, not of things.” –Mark Caine

I can confidently say that the largest barrier that inhibits people with disabilities from traveling abroad is attitude. In preparation for going abroad, many travelers with disabilities worry and are often overwhelmed by the perceived physical barriers associated with disability, whether it be lack of ramps, lack of Brailled signage, lack of accessible public transport, or communication barriers to getting around.

Best Practices
Student smiling in a field of flowers.

Area Coordinator Reflects on Placing a Student with a Disability

When Annie Reifsnyder became an Area Coordinator for CCI Greenheart, a non-profit organization that places international high school exchange students in the United States, she found a way to connect with students from around the world.

One Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) student from Russia in particular caught her attention. “I received Natasha’s bio and was kind of enamored by it,” Reifsnyder says. “I just thought how neat, how cool, how amazing, obviously a student who wanted to come to the U.S., but one who is blind.”

Personal Stories
Stella with Host Family in a park

Student with Disability is Host Family’s Shining Star

When Katharine Royal was five years old, she told her grandfather that one day she’d welcome a child from Africa into her life. Years later, her childhood dream came true as she and her husband opened their home to Stella, a high school exchange student from Kenya who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

Katharine understood the challenges that Stella was facing. Like Stella, she, too, has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair.

"Pretty much before [my friend] even fully asked me if I would consider hosting Stella, I told her we are doing this."

Personal Stories
Country flags on lockers in a school

Teen with a Disability Adds Flag to Hall of Nations

Azat Toroev jokes that he is happy if his classmates can find Kyrgyzstan on a map. Since he arrived in his host state of Colorado, he has been raising awareness of his native country while studying for a year at a U.S. high school. Toroev, who has cerebral palsy, has also increased his own self-awareness while in the United States.

Personal Stories
Green welcome mat in front of a door reads "Welcome"

Rolling Out the Welcome Mat to International Visitors

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.

Best Practices
Wailing Wall and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, Israel

Empowering Self-Advocates with Intellectual Disabilities

Stephanie Blum, who is a personal agent at Full Access in Eugene, Oregon, traveled to Jerusalem and Kiryat Ono, Israel as a part of MIUSA’s Empower Partnerships for Inclusive Communities program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. While there, she partnered with a nonprofit for people with disabilities along with a higher education institution to work on self-advocacy and independence for people who have intellectual disabilities.

Tip Sheets
Blind woman feels a braille embossed document

Disability Documentation When Studying in the U.S.

Although disability-related accommodations and services are provided at no cost to the student, disability office staff may request documentation from the student prior to his or her arrival on campus in order to arrange them. Often, international students to the U.S. will be asked to provide a written report or disability assessment by a qualified diagnostician. For students who are blind or low vision, a school may request a current visual acuity test or functional vision assessment. For Deaf or hard of hearing students, a school may request a recent audiogram. 

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