Resource Library

Tip Sheets
Close up of black and white butterfly

20 Truths that Every Exchange Participant with a Disability Should Know

  1. Remember the benefits: This experience is an incredible opportunity to gain invaluable knowledge and for personal growth. 
  2. Many of your fears will fade away as the unknown becomes known and you become surrounded by new exciting places, tastes, and friends. 
  3. Know that many people with disabilities have successfully traveled to all parts of the world to study or volunteer and more. Learn from their stories in our Resource Library.
  4. Be realistic about the challenges you may face, as well as open to the possibilities. 
Tip Sheets

Dealing with Doubts

Alyssa Hillary, an Autistic student blogging about her study abroad experience in China, is having a successful time but the initial reaction from the overseas university would have made one think that was not possible.

“[Chinese administrators] said people like me shouldn’t go to college, and they tried to get the program to un-accept me, and they tried to have me sent home.”

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
Bahraini and American young men wearing traditional head scarves

Strategies for Addressing Cultural Disability Differences

By your very presence, and by your active participation in an international exchange experience, you can help challenge negative perceptions. People with disabilities who have traveled abroad have tried a variety of strategies.

Tip Sheets

Global Disability Culture 101

From country to country, you will find there are vastly different views on disability that are based on your ethnicity, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, and disability type. Local politics, laws, geographic setting (rural versus urban), existing services for people with disabilities, and more add another layer of complexity to disability culture and identity.

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
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.