Resource Library

Tipsheet
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.

Tipsheet
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.

Tipsheet
Young foreign student with mobility disability talks with an advisor

Knowing What Disability Questions to Ask: Sample Accommodations Forms

Are you advising someone with a disability who is traveling abroad for your volunteer, study or professional program? Do you know what questions to ask to assist them in preparing for travel and living abroad related to their disability?

These access information forms provide starting points to learn more about what may be needed. The advisor guidelines also help know what the individual's responses may mean and what follow-up questions you could ask. Download and adapt these for your own use; it may mean asking fewer questions on the forms and more in face to face conversations.

Tipsheet
Pushing woman in wheelchair up a ramp.

How Will I Pay for Personal Assistance Abroad?

The costs of international travel for just one person - whether for airfare, housing, or all the tasty local food - are harrowing enough. So if you're someone who will require the services of a personal assistant during your international exchange experience, the idea of doubling or even tripling these expenses can make it seem like international travel is out of reach.

Not so! For affordable PAS abroad, look for creative ways to reduce or share costs, raise funds, or negotiate with your exchange program provider to help defray the costs.

Tipsheet
A woman is carried up stairs on someone's back, while others bring her wheelchair.

Setting Clear Expectations for Personal Assistants

Simply being available to travel wasn't enough to meet U.S. student Lauren Presutti's criteria for providing personal assistance during her studies abroad to Australia. "It was crucial for me to find the right two people who I felt most comfortable with and who I could completely trust," says Lauren of what made her time abroad a success.

Promoting a sense of trust and confidence between you and your personal assistant (PA) begins with establishing clear roles and responsibilities for what is expected of each other while you're abroad. Begin now.

Tipsheet
Woman in wheelchair gets a push from a friend.

Will I Need Personal Assistance Services Abroad?

There are many unknowns when preparing for an exchange experience in another country, especially when it comes to figuring out how you'll get what you need to be independent. Getting from place to place, taking care of yourself, and getting assistance when needed are all part of the equation.

Not sure whether you will need personal assistance services (PAS) during your international experience or not? Ask yourself these questions to help inform your decision.

Tipsheet
Close up of two young women smiling.

Who Can Assist Me When I Go Abroad?

Personal assistance during your international exchange can come from a wide variety of sources, whether a hired professional, a friend or family member, a fellow traveler or even a friendly local. Weigh the potential pros and cons of your options to find the best fit for you.

Tipsheet
A young woman using a manual wheelchair hangs onto the back of a young man's power wheelchair as he pulls her along a street.

Disability-Focused International Exchanges

As a person with a disability, you have the right to participate in the same international exchange opportunities as people who do not have disabilities. You may decide that you want to participate in an exchange program that is not specifically focused on the topic of disability, such as one focused on Japanese culture, public health, or the performing arts.

Tipsheet
An African woman with a disability and her personal assistant walking.

Using Personal Assistance Services Abroad

Whether at home or abroad, personal assistance services (PAS) provide a way for some people with disabilities to fully participate in all areas of community living. Sometimes called a personal care attendant (PCA), a personal assistant (PA) assists a person with a disability to do the things she would do for herself if she did not have a disability or had other ways to accomplish the task without human assistance. This could involve:

Tipsheet
Crowds visit a Japanese temple

3 Ways to Get Health Coverage While Overseas

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.

Tipsheet
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.

Tipsheet
White labador guide dog walks beside its owner

Traveling Internationally with a Guide Dog or Service Animal

You are taking the leap to go abroad and naturally you want to bring along your service animal or guide dog on this adventure. However, you may wonder what arrangements will be needed. Or, if bringing your animal companion is a good idea or not. Feral dogs in the destination country and other considerations on how to keep your guide dog or service animal healthy overseas can help when deciding.

Tipsheet
Young woman seated very low in her airline seat smiles

Transferring Tips for Air Travel

While I was excited about the opportunity to go abroad to Costa Rica on an exchange program, as a disabled person I worried about how my experience getting on and off the plane would be.

I learned quickly that airline personnel don’t always know what to do when it comes to helping to transfer a person with a disability. Although they may have received formal training, it is different having to help in a real situation. Each person with a disability is different, and what may work for one person doesn’t mean it will work for another. Here are four tips that have worked for me:

Tipsheet
A college student with a physical disability gets lifted piggyback up stairs in China while her friends carry up her empty wheelchair

Staying in Control on Stairs

At some point in your international travels, you may come upon a flight of stairs that need scaling, whether out of necessity (e.g. exiting a Parisian metro stop with a broken lift) or sheer desire (mounting the last bit of the Eiffel Tower for an incredible view).  If you will need assistance from others to lift you and your wheelchair, there are some ways to make this tricky situation a little less harrowing.

Tipsheet
A young woman in a manual wheelchair bends over to dip water out of a low pool to wash her hands in Japan

Preparations for Travel with a Physical Disability

Get everything you need in place so you can start your adventure right as soon as you land. This includes finding solutions to inaccessible places, learning new strategies, and preparing for differences.

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