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.
Are you eager to get foreign language immersion and to gain new skills for problem-solving and independent living? We asked several students on the autism spectrum to talk about the benefits they gained from studying abroad. Consider the many ways in which international exchange can enrich your life.
You can use your Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funds towards international academic exchange expenses. Learn how to include study abroad in your VR Plan.
Each year, thousands of American undergraduate and graduate students with and without disabilities travel abroad on international academic exchange programs. These students are brushing up on new languages, advancing their cross-cultural awareness, and building valuable independence - all skills that make a hearty resume for future employment opportunities. You can, too!
Do I have to disclose my disability?
Short Answer: No, you are not required to disclose your disability when you apply for or at any point in an international exchange program. If you do not need specific accommodations, you can choose not to disclose your disability.
Long Answer: If you require accommodations or other types of support that will facilitate your success in an international exchange program, you will likely need to disclose your disability. Many exchange program policies require documentation of a disability in order to provide specific accommodations.
Check out the suggested tips and strategies below that can help make international exchange a possibility for you.
Funding can make or break a dream to explore the world. Almost everyone worries about how they will be able to afford the costs associated with international travel. Get ready to learn about many ideas that people just like you have used to make their dream a reality.
As you investigate all funding possibilities, be sure to keep in mind any income or benefits that you are currently receiving in the U.S. There’s a possibility you may be able to use these towards your international exchange opportunity.
"While preparing to study abroad in England, I was concerned about how much it was going to cost. I was receiving SSI benefits and involved with the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), and remained eligible for the year I was in England." - Beth Ocrant, who has a vision disability
Paying for interpreters or speech-to-text providers for an international exchange participant won’t necessarily cost more than it does at home. Save money with these strategies.
In some cases, international exchange programs who are supporting Deaf/Hard of Hearing U.S. citizens abroad may decide to hire sign language interpreters in the destination country. Benefits may include reduced costs and the use of interpreters who have a familiar knowledge of the local language, culture, and Deaf community. However, be aware that most in-country sign language interpreters are trained only in the sign language of that country.
The following resources may be useful to you in locating a sign language interpreter in a non-U.S. country.
Protect yourself and the needs of the interpreter by laying out expectations in advance of the international exchange program. Learn what to include in a contract.
Ask detailed questions that help you understand the full nature of the program and the resources you need to fully participate. While international exchange staff may know more about the programmatic details and international contexts, disability-related staff may have more ideas about alternative accommodation possibilities that could add insight to the discussion.
It might be going abroad for a high school field trip, volunteering on a church mission trip, or participating in a State Department-sponsored program. You can find a lot of fun programs to see the world and gain new experiences!
Youth with disabilities use these international experiences to help build important skills that make them more competitive for post-secondary employment and education opportunities.
Additionally, participation in international exchange can lead to:
Most international exchange participants are issued a J-1 or F-1 visa in order to enter the United States. Most of the rules and regulations for visas are the same for participants with or without disabilities, but there are also some additional considerations that people with disabilities should know. Find out how visa regulations may be impacted by a chronic illness, a pre-existing health condition, or personal assistance.
What skills and qualifications should you consider when hiring an interpreter for a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual? Learn more: from certification and compatibility to travel and foreign language experience.