Students with Disabilities

The following information has been adapted from Toronto Metropolitan University

The U of A strives to ensure that students with disabilities experience equal opportunity in their academic career; however, in situations of global travel, the safety and opportunity to thrive may vary based on local laws and cultural attitudes.

Learning and/or working abroad can present you with exciting possibilities to explore other cultures and understandings of identity. To have a safe and rewarding experience when participating in global learning activities abroad, it’s important to think about how your disabilities may impact your experiences abroad. You should be aware of local and cultural attitudes towards disabilities. This will help you make informed and safe choices about destinations and programs that best meet your needs.

Also it's important to know that perceptions of and accommodations for disability can vary while abroad. Although accommodations may be different in each country, many institutions are increasingly offering accommodations for students with both visible and invisible disabilities. University of Leeds and Université Paris Nanterre are two great examples.

While encouraging you to review the resources below, we’d also suggest that you communicate your needs to our office as soon as possible. This will provide us with the opportunity to assess which programs may be a good fit for you and explore available avenues to ensure that your particular needs are met.

Participation Tips
  • When you are comfortable, disclose your disability needs to education abroad program coordinators early, so appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations can be made in advance.
  • Remember that some destination countries/institutions may provide disability access in a different way—learn about what types of accommodations are typically provided in your host country and be prepared to advocate for the accommodations that you require.
  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your destination culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to the students from the region or who have experienced traveling in the region, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the new environment.
  • 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, consider learning key vocabulary, or finding help from local friends/peers who speak the local language.
Important Questions to Ask Yourself
  • What is my destination culture's attitude toward individuals with disabilities (e.g., mobility, psychiatric, hearing, vision, learning, etc.)?
  • How should I prepare to adjust to living in a foreign country? (e.g., housing, food, culture, language, healthcare, etc.)
  • Are on-site resources (offices, staff, hospitals, counseling centers, note-taking assistants, books on tape, etc.) available or 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 in my host institution/city are necessary to help me overcome barriers or to cope with incidents abroad?
  • What barriers might I encounter (both in planning to go abroad, and while abroad), and how do I plan to overcome them?
  • If I utilize academic, medical, psychological, or other resources at my home institution, will I utilize resources abroad? Where can I find the resources I need? What is the financial cost of these resources and what does my insurance cover?
Specific Considerations for a Physical Disability
  • Overall, what is the physical environment/terrain like of my destination city and host university?
  • Are local transportation such as buses, trains, planes available and accessible (same for the corresponding bus or train station and airport)?
  • Are there accessible housing options that are close to classes? Are there accessible dining areas, laundry rooms, and study areas?
  • Are bathrooms in key areas (academic building, housing, libraries) accessible?
  • Are local businesses (banks, shopping centers, markets, grocery stores) accessible?
Medical Needs
  • If you take prescriptions, make sure you have enough to last throughout the entire stay.
  • 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.
  • Always carry medications in your carry-on in the event your checked bag is delayed or lost.
  • It is illegal to have medication sent abroad to you via postal mail.
  • Confirm your health insurance covers any disability-related medical needs while overseas.
  • Ensure your medication is legal in your destination country by contacting the consulate or embassy.

Deaf/Hard of Hearing Resources

If you know of additional resources that assisted you in your preparation to go abroad or would like to share your personal story of learning abroad, please contact

Take the next step: talk with an Education Abroad Advisor

U of A International's Education Abroad advisors are ready to help you go abroad:

  • Get answers to your questions
  • Assistance with the application process
  • Advice on destination and program choice

Make an Appointment