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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
Word cloud featuring the phrase "Student with" surrounded by diverse types of disabilities

Track Students with Disabilities in Your Study Abroad Reporting

Through the Open Doors® survey compiled annually by the Institute on International Education, we have a general snapshot of how many U.S. college students with disabilities study abroad and their disability types. But until more U.S. higher education institutions respond with these disability statistics, we won't have a complete picture. Your institution is needed to bring the snapshot into greater focus!

To do this, help ensure that your institution responds to the Open Doors® survey, including its two questions about students with disabilities going abroad.

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
Christi Gilson, who is a blind American, explores Hong Kong with cane and local friend

Blind and Low Vision Tips for Going Abroad

You have been accepted to a study, volunteer, or other program abroad. Now what? Here's quick preparation tips and advice upon arrival. From arranging a time for orientation training at the new location to being prepared for different attitudes on disability.

Tip Sheets
Empty wheelchair outside Asian temple

Infographic: Get Your Planning Started

People with disabilities live and travel everywhere these days. By planning creatively, collaborating with others, and being flexible there’s no need to limit yourself to places that are more like home. Your decision may be less about the country where you go, and more about the type or length of program that works for you.

Tip Sheets
foreign currency

10 Scholarships to Fund Your Travels Abroad

Be an ambassador for peace, master a foreign language, give back through services…and do it all in another country! These ten scholarship opportunities can help make it happen. Although each one has its own eligibility requirements, all of them are open to U.S. citizens with disabilities.

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
Camel resting

Creative Ways to Get Around Abroad

Whether trekking through dense jungles or scaling tall temples, traversing over tough terrain is sometimes necessary on our international adventures. Scroll through our photo slideshow to see how other intrepid travelers with mobility disabilities have forged ahead on their international paths - by tractor, by piggyback, and even by yak!

Tip Sheets
Deaf female student from Malaysia stands in front of the Model Secondary School for the Deaf

High School Placements for Deaf Exchange Students

In the United States, the vast majority of secondary students with disabilities are mainstreamed in inclusive high schools per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). First passed in 1975, the IDEA is a powerful landmark civil rights law that guarantees access to a free, appropriate, public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE) appropriate to every child with a disability.

Tip Sheets
Blind student and teacher smile while holding a hand puppet in a school hallway..

High School Placements for Blind and Low Vision Students

It used to be that the majority of blind and low vision exchange students were placed in schools for the blind in the United States. That is no longer the case. Experienced exchange professionals know that there is no one size fits all approach to placing these talented students in U.S. high schools.

In the United States, the vast majority of secondary students with disabilities are mainstreamed in public high schools.

Tip Sheets
High school students sit in a semi-circle in a classroom.

IEPs and 504 plans: Understanding the Difference

Youth with disabilities participate in high school exchange programs in the U.S. every year. Although many international students with disabilities will need few, if any, disability-related accommodations in the United States, others will need services and support to participate fully in their host schools. Students may receive services and support informally or through an IEP or 504 plan.

Tip Sheets
Power wheelchair user with breathing machine seeks assistance from another person.

Tips on Traveling with a Ventilator or Breathing Machine

When traveling internationally, you may need electrical converters/adaptors for respiratory equipment. Also airline personnel may request detailed information about its operation and use. Know your settings and how to do basic setup and problem-solving, and learn other tips for traveling safely.

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
Wheelchair strapped to the back of a motor scooter.

Wheelchair-Accessible Transportation

With information and an open mind, there are many ways to successfully problem solve transportation issues in any country. Depending on where someone will be living, transportation can vary dramatically. In big cities and even small towns in many countries, taxis, buses and public transport will be wheelchair accessible. Some basic questions about where a participant will be, what is common in that area, and what alternatives exist will help you think through the transportation options.

Tip Sheets
Young girl transfered from wheelchair to bedroom desk to study

Wheelchair Access in Lodging

The living situation for an exchange participant is not just a place to stay, but a way to learn about family, culture and language. Some participants will be better suited to living in a dormitory, while others will thrive in a homestay family. In either case, what's key is finding a place and people who will welcome a participant with a disability into many aspects of life in the new country.

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