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:
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.
Do you plan to take the TOEFL or GRE test? You may be eligible to receive disability-related accommodations through the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which administers these and other tests. But start soon. All requests for testing accommodations must be reviewed and approved by ETS before you can schedule your test!
The information on this page will give you a general idea of what to expect. For complete details, instructions, and requirements, visit ETS' Information for Test Takers with Disabilities under Related Links.
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.
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.
The experience of being in a completely new environment, disability or not, can be very challenging. As a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person, these new environments may present communication challenges that you haven’t experienced before.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you are a Medicaid recipient, you may be dropped from enrollment in the medical plans if you do not keep a U.S. state residence or address or if you lose your SSI eligibility (see our tipsheet on "SSI, SSDI & International Exchange" for more). Loss of enrollment creates a gap of coverage upon return home from traveling abroad, especially if the travel health insurance does not cover you in your home country.
Know what options exist or how to plan for health coverage while on an exchange program if you have pre-existing conditions or need ongoing medications and treatment while abroad.
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.
As a deaf or hard of hearing person, you have the right to apply for and participate in any type of international exchange program for which you are otherwise eligible, so look for those which match your interests and goals! International exchange program providers and universities have worked with many participants to arrange sign language interpreters abroad, real-time captioning, CART and other forms of communication access.
The number of students with disabilities participating in study abroad is likely to increase in the coming years - be ready for them! These surveys look at overall satisfaction, disability supports, and participation levels of students with disabilities.