Study Abroad for Students with Disabilities

The University of Florida International Center and the University of Florida Disability Resource Center are committed to providing students with disabilities the opportunity to study abroad. We encourage all students with disabilities to explore potential opportunities abroad.

A General Note on Accessibility Overseas

Just as cultures differ, so do disability accommodations and perceptions. Although the University of Florida International Center is supportive of the inclusion of students with disabilities, the extent to which accommodations can be provided depends on the nature of the accommodation needed, the general situation in that particular country regarding accessibility and available services, and the creativity and flexibility of the student and staff/faculty in planning for the experience abroad. There may be some limiting factors that may require the student to reconsider a particular program and/or location. Moreover, in some situations, additional costs may be incurred by the student to accommodate the special living, study and/or travel arrangements required to meet a special need. If assistance is needed while traveling, or for the duration of the student’s stay abroad, this must be planned well in advance of traveling. Also, some disability-related supplies and medications may not be readily available abroad. Students will need to research what supplies are available and the regulations for bringing medications into the country. In some cases, it may be necessary to bring sufficient supplies for the entire duration of the study abroad program. More information about accommodations in different cultures can be found at Mobility International.

Things to Consider when Looking at Programs

Part of the study abroad process for all students involves careful reflection about which program or location is the best fit. Your study abroad advisor is able to assist with examining the many aspects of specific study abroad programs and to point out which might be the best personal and academic fit for you. Some things for students with disabilities to consider when looking at programs include:

  • How does the host culture define disability?
  • Is there disability-related legislation in the host country?
  • What are the overall conditions of the public sidewalks and streets?
  • Is transportation available and accessible?
  • What kind of travel is required as a part of the program?
  • Are there extensive financial costs involved with accommodation needs, and, if so, how will these costs be supported?
  • Is there access to professionals who can repair auxiliary aids, if necessary?
  • Are interpreter or captioning services available?
  • Are there any laws in the host country which support service animals?
  • Are the room dimensions physically accessible?
  • Are there accessible bathroom and shower facilities available?
  • What is the coursework like? What are the usual methods of instruction?
  • Does the program curriculum involve rigorous physical activity (e.g. hiking)?
  • Are counseling services available on the program?
  • How will refills of medication be handled? Is a prescribed medicine legal and available in the host country?

Potential Accommodations Abroad

  • Classroom and residence wheelchair accessibility
  • Visual Aids
  • Extended test-taking time
  • Note-taking
  • Sign language interpreters
  • Refrigeration for prescribed medication
  • Assistive technology

Study Abroad Application and Accommodation Checklist for Students with Disabilities

Students are not required to inform their study abroad advisor of their disability, however, doing so will help us assess needs and provide ample time for communicating with the host university to provide accommodations abroad. Because many accommodations require early planning, requests for accommodations should be made as early as possible:

  • Attend a study abroad information session. This session explains the basics of study abroad at UF and answers common general questions about program types, credit, and financial aid. The schedule of information sessions can be found here.
  • Meet with a study abroad advisor to discuss program options. Each study abroad advisor at UF works with a different region of the world. Appointments can be made here.
  • If requesting accommodations abroad, students must schedule an appointment at the Disability Resource Center to request a study abroad accommodation letter in person. This letter will then be shared with the necessary parties both in the US and abroad in order to facilitate your accommodation.
  • Submit this study abroad accommodation request letter to study abroad advisor.
  • Meet with study abroad advisor to discuss necessary accommodation arrangements abroad. Study abroad advisor will communicate with institution or program provider abroad to arrange accommodations.

Programs

While students with disabilities have the same study abroad options as any other student, there are some study abroad programs specifically tailored to the needs of students with disabilities.

Resources

References

CEA statement on accommodation for students with special needs. Retrieved from http://www.ceastudyabroad.com/docs/CEA-DisabilityPolicy.pdf.

Katz, E. (2007). Students with disabilities studying abroad. International Educator. Retrieved from https://www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/educationabroad_iesept_oct.pdf.

Soneson, H. M. (2009). Education abroad advising to students with disabilities. NAFSA e-Publications. Retrieved from http://www.nafsa.org/uploadedFiles/NAFSA_Home/Resource_Library_Assets/Publications_Library/AdvisEAstudDis.pdf.

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (2009). A guide to disability rights laws. Retrieved from http://www.ada.gov/cguide.htm.