Resource Library

Tip Sheets
3 people, one in a scooter talking

What Statistics Tell Us about People with Disabilities in International Exchange

Mobility International USA is always looking for surveys or research in the disability or international education fields that have the potential to shine a light on the participation and experiences of people with disabilities in international exchange. If surveys ask both "Do you have a disability?" and "Did you [study, volunteer, intern, teach, research] abroad?," then we do our best to request and report on the data, so we can all learn more from the findings.

Tip Sheets
EducationUSA website snapshot that says "For International Students: U.S. Study Opportunities Abound"

EducationUSA: Your Official Source for U.S. Higher Education

EducationUSA Advisers around the world offer information, orientation, and guidance as you search for higher education institutions in the United States that fits your needs. EducationUSA makes applying to a U.S. college or university clear.

Tip Sheets
International student rides down a ramp using her wheelchair in front of the "International House Cafe".

7 Steps for #Access2USA

Step 1: Start Looking!

Remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives you the right to access educational programs offered on U.S. soil, so find an opportunity that fits your interest.

Step 2: Apply!

You have the right to an accessible application and admission process, if needed.  Many programs will allow you access to an advisor who will provide assistance.

Tip Sheets
Volunteer to India smiles widely with arched entryways behind

What’s Your Volunteer Abroad Style?

To make the most out of your service abroad, it’s important to carefully examine your interests and skills, and your openness to partner with community members abroad who will have different perspectives. While it is not your role as a volunteer abroad to swoop in and save the day by helping others, neither should it be a situation where you are sidelined from participating because no one thought to plan for disability access. After all, interdependent partnerships rely on recognizing the contributions of everyone.

Tip Sheets
International students sitting and smiling on bleachers at sports game.

Accommodations for Non-Native English Speakers

“Do international students get extra time? Is being a non-native English speaker a disability?” This question comes up frequently from international students and disability service offices.  At first thought, many offices would easily say “no” and “no." Should it be that easy?

Many academic departments and student service offices may initially assume that issues arise solely from being a non-native English speaker, but it may also mean that a disability is not recognized, and a second look should be given to these students.

Tip Sheets
Faculty-led study abroad group to Italy

Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities

It is important to know your rights, your responsibilities, and what is guiding the current practices of study abroad programs. There are good reasons for providing accommodations but you also need to look at the entire program to gauge accessibility and be clear and realistic about what programs can deliver.

Tip Sheets
Narrow alleyway in Moroccan town

Changing Policies & Practices for Program Access

Rules and regulations that work for the majority of participants may need to be adjusted slightly to foster participation by participants with disabilities. Depending on the culture, some issues that may seem inconsequential, such as "Personal assistants are the responsibility of the individual to provide," can become rigid barriers. Changing these situations takes common sense and diplomacy. Sometimes a reasonable modification of policy will allow a participant with disabilities to fully engage in the program.

Tip Sheets
Austin Bates (left) who has diabetes with other diverse volunteers in Peru

How To Prepare for Diversity

Do you know what to put in place at your program site to be best prepared? Can you match up the list of disabilities with the list of program accommodations? View the accessible PDF under Documents  for a designed version of the lists.

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
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
College students chat or study from books.

Standardized Tests and People with Disabilities

Applying to study, learn English, or get professional experience in the U.S.? You may be required to provide test scores as part of your application. Find out what kinds of disability-accommodations you may be able to receive when you take the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, and other tests.

Tip Sheets
A woman in a red suitcoat listens intently to another woman talking

Health Insurance: 8 Steps for Exchange Advisors to Take

By removing health insurance barriers, you can support diverse students to safely participate in your international exchange programs.With these options in place, it shouldn’t prevent qualified individuals from participating in exchanges and alleviate some of the difficult health cost issues that exchange staff and students need to deal with during the program.

Tip Sheets
Woman getting henna painted on the palm of her hand

Why Pre-Existing Conditions Matter in Insurance

Plans offered to international exchange participants for less than a year of coverage are not fully licensed products so changes to U.S. health laws through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) do not apply. These plans can increase costs, have pre-existing condition exclusions, or deny enrollment to an individual based on health status.

Tip Sheets
Reading codes of conduct

Codes of Conduct and Exchange Participants with Disabilities

Having a disability does not exempt participants from the terms of the code of conduct (sometimes called behavior agreements) or from experiencing consequences for violating the code.

Providing all participants with site-specific information about the services and support available abroad can reduce the likelihood that a participant with a disability will violate a code of conduct.

For example:

Pages