When travelling abroad, it is important to know how the perceptions of, and accommodations for, disability will vary. For example, while in Canada independence is valued, in other countries people may assume that those with disabilities will ask if they want or need help. The key to any global learning participant is flexibility. Accommodations may be different in each country. However, many institutions are increasingly offering accommodations for students with both visible and invisible disabilities.
We encourage you to communicate your needs to our office, your activity organizer, and/or Student Wellness Services as soon as possible. This will provide us with the opportunity to assess which programs may be a good fit for you. It will also help us explore available avenues to ensure that your particular needs are met.
To help you learn more about global learning abroad for students with disabilities, we have compiled the information and resources below. The goal of these resources is to ensure you can make an informed decision about global learning abroad. As you navigate the material, feel free to reach out to us at any point in time. In addition, the MastersDegree.net resource "Guide to Studying Abroad for Students with Disabilities" is an excellent step by step guide (see below for additional resources).
This information was adapted with thanks from Toronto Metropolitan University's Identity Abroad Students with Disabilities webpage.
- Ensure your medication is legal in your destination country by contacting the consulate or embassy.
- Confirm your health insurance covers any disability-related medical needs while overseas.
- If you take prescriptions and require medical supplies (needles and insulin test strips), make sure you have enough to last throughout the entire stay or can gain access to what you need.
- It is illegal to have medication sent abroad to you via postal mail.
- All meds should be stored in their original containers with their labels attached and visible.
- Carry a letter from a physician that describes the medication.
- Make sure to carry a prescription from a physician for your medication.
- Always carry medications in your carry-on in the event your checked bag is delayed or lost.
- What is my destination culture's attitude toward individuals with disabilities (mobility, psychiatric, hearing, vision, learning, etc.)?
- In what ways should I prepare to adjust to living in a foreign country? (housing, food, culture, language, healthcare, etc.)
- How many on-site resources (offices, staff, hospitals, fixing mobility aides, medical supply centres, counseling centers, note-taking assistants, books on tape, etc.) are offered in my host city/university?
- How different is the academic environment, and is there flexibility for longer test time, reduced workloads, mandatory excursions, etc.?
- What support systems are necessary to help me overcome barriers or to cope with incidents?
- What barriers might I encounter (both in planning to go abroad, and while abroad), and how will I overcome them?
- If I utilize academic, medical, psychological, or other resources at my home institution, will I need to utilize these resources abroad? Where can I find the resources I need? What is the financial cost of these resources and what does my insurance cover?
- Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance. Students will not be required to disclose or share any personal medical or diagnostic information. The goal of this point is to enable a discussion around functional impacts or barriers that you may encounter. Disclosing this information will not impact your application. You can also contact the institution abroad to find out which supports are available.
- Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way. We encourage you to learn about what types of accommodations are typically provided in your host country and be prepared to advocate for the accommodations that you require. It is also important to learn what “accessibility” looks like in your host city/country. For example, are there cut curbs on sidewalks throughout the city? Is there an accessible bus service? What are the accessibility legislations of the country (e.g., are places of service required to have access for wheelchair users?).
- Before you go, find out as much as you can about your destination culture and how they view disability. You can do this by reading, talking to other students from the region or who have experience travelling in the region. This may include reaching out to students from other universities who have a similar disability and have travelled in the area (for example, those who have shared their experiences on one of the platforms below). It may also include attending pre-departure orientation sessions.
- Consider how you will ask for accommodations once you arrive in the destination country. You may encounter situations that you were not able to prepare for in advance. If language is a barrier, considering learning key vocabulary.
- InclusiveMobility.eu - European platform hosting inclusion and support services offered by higher education institutions, national agencies, and ministries for education to international students.
- Student Accessibility Services (QSAS) | Queen's University
- Take Charge of Your Travel: A Guide for Persons with Disabilities | Canadian Transportation Agency
- International | Council of Canadians with Disabilities
- Traveling with a Disability | Travelers' Health | CDC
- Programs Abroad, Jobs & Internships, Scholarships | Diversity Abroad
- Students with Disabilities Abroad | Diversity Abroad
- Disability Travel and Recreation Resources