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Accessibility Abroad

Drexel Study Abroad is committed to supporting our students as they prepare for study abroad, and we encourage you to be as open as possible with your advisors about your needs or concerns. The Study Abroad office works closely with the Office of Disability Resources (ODR) to facilitate equal access for students when it can be arranged. Since the benefits of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may not follow students abroad, any student who may need accommodation should speak with ODR and their study abroad advisor early.

Just as cultures differ, so does the degree of access and readily available disability services in the many countries and communities a student might consider for their study abroad experience. The key for any study abroad participant is flexibility and a proactive approach. After speaking with your study abroad advisor, students are strongly encouraged to reference Mobility International for assistance in finding overseas support services. It is important to communicate your needs and consider alternative and creative ways to meet them.

Timeline and Tips

  1. Start early! Students using accommodations need to start planning 6 months to a year prior to the program start date.
    • The more extensive your needs (for example, sign language interpreters or accessible transportation and housing), the more advanced planning time is necessary. Talk to the Study Abroad Office and the Office of Disability Resources about your accommodation needs.
    • Register with the Office of Disability Resources if you have not already done so.
  2. Attend a Study Abroad 101
    • The session will help you narrow down your focus and give you a better idea about which programs are best for you academically.
  3. Research any study abroad programs you found interesting in the Study Abroad 101. Review program brochures online and look on Mobility International (link) for more information.
    • Consider the connections to your educational and personal goals as well as the requirements for acceptance to a study abroad program.
  4. 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.
    • Write down information on each program relating to your individual needs.
    • The Study Abroad Office can help you find sites that are more compatible with your needs.
    • Consider making an appointment with an ODR Professional to discuss potential barriers to access you may encounter while abroad.
  5. Choose one or two programs of interest and meet with a study abroad advisor to begin the application process.
  6. Create a budget and financial plan to include any added costs for accommodation needs while you are abroad.
  7. If you need specific accommodations, request them early from your host institution after acceptance.
    • When you have been accepted, maintain regular communication with the Study Abroad Office and ODR.

Questions to Consider

(source: University of Wisconsin Study Abroad)

These questions cover basic things you should consider when thinking about studying abroad. This is not a comprehensive list and there may be other factors to consider. Consult your study abroad advisor and other resources for more information.

Attitudes about Disability

  • How important is it for you to study in a place where disability accommodations are well-developed and cultural attitudes are progressive?
  • How will your independence or use of adaptive equipment be affected based on the program you are considering?
  • How does the chosen host culture define disability?
  • What questions about your disability might you need to be prepared to answer?
  • Consider carefully how your communication needs may change while you study abroad. How may this impact your daily activities and/or accommodations?

Curriculum Questions

  • How are the courses designed and what type of coursework will be required in your study abroad program?
  • Does a program fit your learning style? For example, is the program based on interactive classes and experiential field trips or a more traditional lecture/discussion format? Are there structured schedules and assignments to help you manage your time? Are late morning classes to accommodate fatigue available in the program?
  • Can you arrange for test accommodations?
  • Will there be multiple choice or essay exams?
  • How much reading is involved?
  • Is document conversion available for on-site reading materials?
  • For students using interpreting and real-time captioning, what is the duration of the program? How many classroom hours are required in your program?

Transportation

  • How will you approach traveling on an international airline and in an international airport?
  • It is important to research accessible information prior to leaving the country and to be prepared in case things don’t go as planned. It is critical to have a back-up plan in place.
  • What types of accessible public transportation are available in the host country?
  • What types of transportation will be most often used in your study abroad program?
  • What are the overall conditions of public sidewalks and pavement of streets?

Housing

  • What are the housing options through 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?
  • Are there accessible bathroom and shower facilities? How close are they to your room?
  • Are there flashing fire alarms in your housing facility? In your room?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements like in your program?
  • How might technology in the host country impact your assistive technology housing needs?

Medical Care & Auxiliary Aids

  • Are replacement parts for auxiliary aids readily available in the event of loss or damage?
  • Can your current treating specialist refer you to possible agencies or professionals who may assist you in the event of an emergency?
  • Can you bring your prescribed medications through customs and to your host country?

Service Animals

  • Are there any laws in the host country which support service animals?
  • Are there veterinary services conveniently available in your host country?
  • What vaccines, documentation, and tests are required to bring your service animal into your host country (or other countries) and back into the US?
  • Will public transportation allow service animals in all the countries you may be visiting?
  • Research the different rules and regulations that may impact service animals during international travel.

Resources