Resource Library

Tip Sheets
International student rides down a ramp using her wheelchair in front of the "International House Cafe".

7 Steps for #Access2USA

Step 1: Start Looking!

Remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives you the right to access educational programs offered on U.S. soil, so find an opportunity that fits your interest.

Step 2: Apply!

You have the right to an accessible application and admission process, if needed.  Many programs will allow you access to an advisor who will provide assistance.

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
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
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:

Tip Sheets
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:

Tip Sheets
Student wearing a hearing aid writing in a classroom with other students.

English Testing for High School Students with Disabilities

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.

Tip Sheets
Stack of test books and dictionaries

Disability Accommodations for the TOEFL, GRE and Other ETS Tests

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.

Tip Sheets
College students chat or study from books.

Standardized Tests and People with Disabilities

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.

Tip Sheets
A magnifying glass is held to a document labeled "visa."

Visa Considerations for Exchange Participants with Disabilities

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.

Tip Sheets
A blind man sits near a flower-filled landscape.

List of Funded Exchange Programs to the U.S.

Whether you're interested in leadership experience, disability issues, or other topics, consider applying for one of these competitive programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and other organizations. Most programs include full or partial funding!

Tip Sheets
A group of young Americans and exchange students with and without disabilities talk while walking through a college campus.

"I Got In! Now What?": Preparing for Study in the U.S.

It's official: You're well on your way to your U.S. studies. Now is the time to notify the school's disability office about your disability-related needs, search for financial aid, and learn about visa rules and regulations.

Tip Sheets
A group of male international college students communicate in sign language. One wears a Gallaudet t-shirt.

"Which College is Right for Me?"

Any college or university is a potential match for an international student or scholar with a disability. Learn which factors to consider when browsing institutions, and follow next steps for applying to your dream school.

Tip Sheets
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.

Tip Sheets
Asma wears a bright orange long sleeved salwar kameez and black headscarf, nametag on a lanyard around her neck, and sunglasses. Behind her is the Reflecting Pool, with the Washington Monument visible far in the distance. The sky is overcast.

Pakistani Students with Disabilities: Asma's Tips to Access U.S. Study

In Pakistan people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable and dependent for assistance on their families. Often they find it challenging to get an education and find jobs due to lack of accessibility, proper accommodation, inclusion and proper laws to protect the rights of people with disabilities. I know this first-hand, as someone who is visually impaired and has gone through many hardships and faced many challenges. And yet, finally with the blessings of Allah, I graduated with a degree in law this year!

Pages