Students with disabilities may not think that study abroad is an option for them. CIE encourages students from all backgrounds, including students with disabilities, to explore all of CIE’s options.
Just as cultures differ, though, so does the degree of access and readily available disability services in the countries and communities students may consider for their study abroad experience. There are many study abroad programs in which students with disabilities have successfully participated; however, not every study abroad experience is a good fit from an accessibility perspective.
It is critical to plan ahead to ensure you have full access to your education abroad program. To better serve students with disabilities, the CIE study abroad team works closely with the UWM Accessibility Resource Center (ARC) to collaborate and share available resources. If you anticipate you may need accommodations for access or for course requirements for your study abroad program, please contact the ARC for assistance, in addition to your coordinator. You may have to give ARC permission to share your accommodations with your coordinator.
- Fully research study abroad programs offered through UWM. Consider both your educational goals and the specific accommodations you may need in order to participate and meet study abroad program standards.
- Recognize that accommodation planning requires extra preparation time, often well in advance of application deadlines and notification of acceptance to a program. This is particularly true if accommodations include any of the following: sign language interpreting, captioning, conversion of print to audio or Braille, or mobility considerations including, but not limited to, transportation and housing.
- Students can work with CIE and the Accessibility Resource Center to find the best program that meets the needs of students’ academic goals and accessibility needs for the program.
- Create a realistic budget for your study abroad expenses, including personal expenses associated with disability-related needs (e.g., personal attendant services, specialized equipment, adaptive technology, medication or other health care costs, etc.)
Questions to Consider
- Can you bring your prescribed medications through customs and to your host country?
- Can your current treating specialist refer you to possible agencies or professionals who may assist you in the event of an emergency?
- What are the housing options for your program, and what accommodations do you need?
- Are the room dimensions physically accessible to individual needs?
Are there elevators available in your housing facility?
- What types of accessible public transportation are available in the host country?
- What types of transportation will be most often used during your program?
Tips for Students with Disabilities
- Start planning early!
- Be flexible and think creatively about how you can accommodate your disability abroad.
- Discuss your accommodation needs with your study abroad coordinator. The more extensive your needs (for example, sign language interpreters or accessible transportation and housing), the more advanced planning time is critical.
- Identify accommodations that would minimize barriers and enhance your participation and enjoyment while abroad.
- Keep in mind that due to differing environments, you may need accommodations or assistance abroad that you may not typically need in the United States.
- Work together with CIE’s study abroad coordinators, the ARC, and family to create a budget and a financial plan for accomplishing the financial goals that were set.
- UWM Accessibility Resource Center
- U.S. State Department Traveling with Disabilities
- Mobility International USA
Even while students abroad are still Panthers!, they are first and foremost UWM students, and are always welcome to contact the Accessibility Resource Center.