Resource Library

Tip Sheets
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:

Tip Sheets
Wheelchair users at the airline ticket counter

Air Travel Tips for People with Disabilities

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.

Tip Sheets
Power wheelchair user on a study abroad site visit in S. Korea

Faculty-Led Study Abroad Programs

Faculty-led programs are yet another route that students with disabilities may choose in order to achieve their study abroad goals. This tipsheet covers how to adapt a program for accessibility, legal responsibilities, practices collected from faculty leaders, and links to examples of faculty-led handbooks and site accessibility forms.

Tip Sheets
TSA checking in African student using crutches

Navigating Airport Security

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.

Tip Sheets
Checking in at airport

Legal Protections on Flights

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.

Tip Sheets
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:

Tip Sheets
Reading a tactile map of building floor plan

Advising Blind and Low Vision Exchange Participants

People who meet the definition of legal blindness, meaning that they possess 20/200 vision or less in the best eye, will have varying levels of eyesight. Measuring or inquiring about someone's visual acuity will not give an accurate idea of the level of assistance that they require. Since there is so much variation in the type and quality of education that any given blind or visually impaired individual might have received, it is hard to make generalizations about the supports that they might need without consulting them. 

Tip Sheets
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.

Tip Sheets
College campus skyline

Admissions Tests At-a-Glance

As part of the application process, most undergraduate and graduate programs require one or more U.S. standardized test scores. Your test scores, academic record, and other factors are used to predict how well you will do as a university student. Professional visitor programs may request admission test scores as well. 

Common admissions tests for entering an academic or professional program include:

Tip Sheets
Hands typing on a computer keyboard

English Proficiency Tests At-a-Glance

Being able to communicate in English is a basic requirement for successful study in the United States. If English is not your native language, U.S. colleges and universities, as well as some professional visitor programs, will ask you to take an English language proficiency test before admission to determine your English language ability and appropriate placement level. 

Common English language proficiency tests for entering an academic or professional program include:

Tip Sheets
Student wearing a hearing aid writing in a classroom with other students.

English Testing for High School Students with Disabilities

Before they arrive in the U.S. for a life-changing cultural immersion experience, prospective high school exchange students from around the world are expected to demonstrate their level of English ability, usually by taking a standardized test. Whichever test you use to assess your applicants, learn how to adapt it to fairly and accurately measure the skills of students with disabilities.

Tip Sheets
Host friends

Finding Accessible Host Families

With the right information and community resources, placing participants with disabilities in homes with local families can be meaningful and fulfilling for all involved. If host families are an integral part of an exchange program, U.S. organizations must try to provide the same opportunity for participants with disabilities, or offer an equivalent alternative that achieves the same benefit or result.

Tip Sheets
Two young professional women in Jordan

The Role of Peer Support and Mental Health Abroad

Peer support is often underutilized but can be an effective safety net for many students learning to adjust and adapt to a new culture when studying abroad. Increasingly, study abroad programs are looking at ways to build in support systems and safety nets for all students, including training peers to support students with mental health conditions. Some programs focus on just 2 – 3 hours of a peer support curriculum while others offer 6-week programs that meet once per week prior to going abroad.

Tip Sheets
Wheelchair user on a lift from a bus

Disability Accommodations in International Contexts

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.

Tip Sheets
African American man in a manual wheelchair strolls along with others in Japan

What To Do When Insurance Doesn't Cover It

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.

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