Resource Library

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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.

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Dealing with Doubts

Alyssa Hillary, an Autistic student blogging about her study abroad experience in China, is having a successful time but the initial reaction from the overseas university would have made one think that was not possible.

“[Chinese administrators] said people like me shouldn’t go to college, and they tried to get the program to un-accept me, and they tried to have me sent home.”

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TSA checking in African student using crutches

Navigating Airport Security

All passengers must undergo a security screening process – be patient and cooperative, but know your rights. Also allow more time for additional screening if needed.

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Checking in at airport

Legal Protections on Flights

You have made all your preparations for an international journey, and you don't want to see it delayed due to flight problems. Learn about your rights, and who to talk to if you have questions or issues.

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College campus skyline

Admissions Tests At-a-Glance

As part of the application process, most undergraduate and graduate programs require one or more U.S. standardized test scores. Your test scores, academic record, and other factors are used to predict how well you will do as a university student. Professional visitor programs may request admission test scores as well. 

Common admissions tests for entering an academic or professional program include:

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Hands typing on a computer keyboard

English Proficiency Tests At-a-Glance

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:

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Hard of Hearing woman asking a question

Negotiating Your Accommodations

Remember that you are your own expert on your disability and how it might impact your participation in international exchange! Recognize that the exchange professionals you are working with may not already be familiar with certain types of accommodations, disability resources, or a country’s level of accessibility. Help in doing thorough research and build effective communication on what access you need.

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Bahraini and American young men wearing traditional head scarves

Strategies for Addressing Cultural Disability Differences

By your very presence, and by your active participation in an international exchange experience, you can help challenge negative perceptions. People with disabilities who have traveled abroad have tried a variety of strategies.

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A girl smiles in mid-year at a point overlooking a city in Italy.

Disability Disclosure 101

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.

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The sign with the symbol for wheelchair access is posted on a brick wall outside of a building.

Accessibility at U.S. Colleges and Universities

The United States has thousands of colleges and universities across the country. Each is unique in its own way, but all schools have something in common: they cannot discriminate against anyone due to his or her disability. 

U.S. schools are responsible for making their courses, campus, activities and services accessible to people with disabilities. This includes physical access to college buildings, transportation, housing, and other facilities.

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Blind woman feels a braille embossed document

Disability Documentation When Studying in the U.S.

Although disability-related accommodations and services are provided at no cost to the student, disability office staff may request documentation from the student prior to his or her arrival on campus in order to arrange them. Often, international students to the U.S. will be asked to provide a written report or disability assessment by a qualified diagnostician. For students who are blind or low vision, a school may request a current visual acuity test or functional vision assessment. For Deaf or hard of hearing students, a school may request a recent audiogram. 

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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:

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Two women, one with a head scarf, lean in to talk confidentially

When Can We Ask for Disability Information?

When making choices about accepting or denying an applicant, disability information should be disregarded in the same way as any other non-discrimination status such as religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.