Explore UCEAP Opportunities
Students with disabilities can and do study abroad! UCEAP encourages the participation of students with disabilities. Going abroad on an organized program where there is study abroad staff or faculty, and other exchange students around, can be a big comfort in knowing you don’t have to figure out tough situations that come up abroad alone. However, you need to do your homework beforehand. Refer to Mobility International, 15 Ways to Feel Emotionally Ready.
Students with documented disabilities are responsible for ensuring that the UC campus Disabled Students Program (DSP) is aware of their disabilities and for providing DSP with appropriate documentation.
Communicate your needs early and consider alternatives. UCEAP is committed to facilitating welcoming and reasonably accessible programs, if they can be arranged.
UCEAP can provide information about possible accommodations and their approximate cost. We cannot guarantee accessibility at all locations but we can advise students if a particular site appears to be inaccessible and can recommend an alternate site.
- Most financial aid can be applied to UCEAP. You may find that the cost of going abroad is actually comparable to the on-campus costs.
- Arrange in advance any funding required for accommodations abroad.
- If funding and/or scholarships are not available, make plans to cover any costs associated with accommodations that require payment.
- Start a budget to cover accommodations and potential sources to cover your expenses (SSI, Vocational Rehab, scholarships, etc.). If you receive funding from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, the Rehabilitation representative should contact the UCEAP Student Finance Accountant to identify a payment process.
- UCEAP annually awards scholarships to UCEAP participants. Visit the UCEAP Scholarships page.
- Refer to Mobility International, Refer to Mobility International, Fund your International Exchange Experience.
What are the Essential Steps?
Step 1 - Communicate
Talk openly and honestly with your campus UCEAP advisor and meet with your campus disability office specialist. It is extremely important for the disability specialist on your campus to engage with you in an honest evaluation of your disability, what is required to manage it, and potential issues that could occur while abroad. If you are registered with Disabled Students Program to receive on-campus accommodation, you may be eligible for overseas accommodations when they can be arranged. Identify several programs that meet your academic interests, since overseas sites will have different types of accessibility.
Advising about program fit, course selection, and personal needs is a collaborative effort shared by UC officials who will be working with you to make your UCEAP experience successful.
Your campus UCEAP advisor, the UCEAP Systemwide Office Operations Specialist for your program, and the host institution abroad will work together to assess your needs and discuss accommodations that are possible.
Step 2 - Explore reasonable accommodations
Learn what types of accommodations are possible in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability. Many disability services that are provided on a UC campus may not be available overseas. Some countries don't offer note-taker services or may not recognize learning disabilities, for example.
It is best for you to identify several programs that meet their your academic interests, since different UCEAP locations will have different types or levels of accessibility.
Disclose early. Appropriate arrangements and reasonable accommodations need to be made in advance. Some accommodations may require a three- to six-months advance notice.
Even if you are not sure you will need accommodations abroad, it is still important to make potential needs known so that a plan is in place should an unexpected issue arise. Also, early disclosure will help you plan for the funding that you must secure.
If you disclose needs at the last minute, there will be a delay in arranging accommodations. If you require accommodations that are not available in the host country, you may be advised to postpone participation.
Advantages of Early Disclosure
- Advance preparation for any disability-related needs, including learning about available disability-related access or services and arranging or requesting reasonable accommodations promptly. This will give time to UCEAP and on-site staff to research necessary logistics and accommodations, if available, to help you have a successful, rewarding and safe experience.
- Connections with people in the host community with similar disabilities or to a community of people with disabilities. You can also find allies within program and disability services offices, the community of people with disabilities, and teachers, administrators and program staff to refer you to resources such as funding, accommodations and disability organizations.
- The opportunity to increase disability awareness, reverse negative stereotypes, and present positive models of disability to others.
- Reduction in stress that may come with trying to hide a disability, or in worrying who might assist if in a disability-related emergency situation.
- Being proactive about self-advocacy and communicating personal preferences and needs to those around you. Participate in the decision-making and planning processes and advocate for your own needs.
Research the accessibility of each site. Accommodtions are always based on the specific, documented needs of each student with a disability. Determine which destinations best suit your academic and accommodation needs (see the disability sections below for questions to think about when planning). It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning will help.
The UCEAP Systemwide Program Specialist will consult closely with you to determine, from your perspective, what accommodations listed on the campus Disabled Students Program office letter are required for you to be successful abroad. UCEAP cannot guarantee that facilities and/or support services will be available at each location abroad in the same range and quality as on your UC campus.
Make a detailed list of your daily activities and note tasks you can accomplish alone and which ones will require assistance. For example, if you rely on a friend for assistance on your UC campus, what duties does that person perform, and how will those tasks be accomplished in a new, unfamiliar setting and by someone unfamiliar to you during the UCEAP program?
Among the resources available are UCEAP returnees who can outline potential challenges and adventures of a host country. Call the UCEAP Systemwide Program Specialist for names and contact information. Also, visit Mobility International
Uncertainty and the Need to Plan
- Be realistic about your condition and its impact, on your worst and best days.
- Have a plan for what to do to do during flare ups, along with a list of signs indicative of not being able to cope. Work a realistic day-to-day schedule and needs.
- Regardless of how you have managed your disability on your campus, you may have to address the tension between the program structure and the need for flexibility demanded by the typical, sometimes daily, fluctuations of your condition.
- You may need to miss out on some program activities if the schedule is too full and does not correspond with your energy levels on a given day.
- Other uncertainties for students with non-apparent disabilities going abroad relate to “flares” or other changes in condition related to stress, environmental factors such as weather or sunlight, diet and level of activity. These “flares” may occur less frequently than ongoing fluctuations, but with greater intensity when they do happen.
- Most students with non-apparent disabilities find that the strategies to manage stressful conditions at home, often can get them through the stresses that they encounter during their experiences abroad.
It is fair to say that even with the best efforts of everyone involved with your accommodations request, a problem may occur. If this should happen, we strongly encourage you to let us know so that we can work together to solve the problem as quickly as possible. Experience has shown us that many times a problem arises because of a misunderstanding or miscommunication; therefore, clarification can be a quick and effective solution.
Study abroad requires adaptability for people with and without disabilities. Living in a new culture will be different. These differences will include disability services, perceptions, and accessibility standards from what you are used to in the U.S.
Your UC campus Disabled Student’s Office, at your request, will write a letter documenting the disability and accommodations you are receiving on your campus. We will send this letter to the host university so specialized staff in the local disability office can assess whether similar accommodations can be arranged and the cost, if any. The local disability specialist may need to communicate directly with you if they require more information.
Bring a copy of your medical documentation abroad, including treatment and medication prescription information. Make copies of all documentation that you submit.
Questions to Ask as You Prepare for UCEAP
Processing Disabilities (LD, ADHD, Psychological, Brain Injuries)
Will you need note takers for class?
- What are your host university’s policies on extended exam time?
- Is the host university willing to authorize your usual test accommodations based on American medical documentation?
- What tutoring services might be available and at what cost?
- If you need to see a doctor or therapist for psychological health while abroad, can you establish this contact before departure?
- Have you considered bringing a personal recording device for lectures? Do you have permission to record lectures?
- Are books available on tape or CD?
- Who will fund any special accommodations?
Chronic Systemic Disorders
If you have respiratory problems or severe allergies, what is the air and environmental quality in the city you are considering?
- If your condition is affected by temperatures, what is the climate in your prospective host city?
- What prior notification has been given to the instructors regarding potential absences should your condition flare up unexpectedly? Is there an attendance policy for the program you are considering?
- Will you need extended time on assignments?
- If you normally receive test accommodations, do you have authorization through the host university to receive the same accommodations abroad?
- What special dietary considerations might you have?
- If there are extra expenses associated with special accommodations, who will fund these?
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Will you need an interpreter or Real-time Captioning or Computer Assisted Real-time Translation (CART)? Who will fund this accommodation?
- Where/how will the interpreter be hired?
- What is the hourly rate for interpreters in the host country? (Note that interpreter costs vary widely from country to country and within the same country.)
- Does the interpreter know American Sign Language? Sign language is not universal and may differ between countries that have the same spoken language. Find out the differences before leaving. It may be possible to depart early to learn the new sign language.
- If you are taking a personal FM system, can you obtain batteries in your host country that work for your device?
- Who will notify your instructor of the need to wear the FM microphone?
- Will you need a note taker?
- Are captioned videos available?
- Who will fund other special accommodations?
Will you take one or two wheelchairs? Electric or manual?
- Do you need a transformer? Is the voltage in your host country compatible with your transformer?
- How will you ship your chairs abroad?
- Where can your chair be repaired abroad?
- Do you need to make additional arrangements to get from the airport to the orientation site or to your host university?
- Are the streets and/or sidewalks paved or cobblestone? Are there curb cuts for wheelchair access?
- What is the accessibility of the host university and city (elevators, bathrooms, classrooms, housing, transportation, etc.)?
- Is voice recognition software available?
- Will you need note takers, scribes or transcribers?
- What kind of field trips are part of your program? Are they accessible?
- Are lab or library assistants available in your host country?
- Do you need extended time on assignments or exams?
- Who will fund any special accommodations?
Have you contacted the consulate of your host country to determine if you will need to put your guide dog in quarantine?
- Will special housing or food arrangements be necessary for your dog? Is your dog allowed into the classroom?
- Are alternate formats available? (books on tape, Braille, e-text, scanning, CCTV, etc.).
- Will you need a mobility assistant to help you?
- Have you obtained maps of your host city and enlarged them to become familiar with directions before departure?
- What kind of test accommodations will you need?
- Is there Braille signage on buildings, elevators, classroom, ATMs, etc.?
- Will you have access to computer software to write papers or read assignments?
- Who will fund any special accommodations?
Medications and Medical Care Abroad
Before departure, work on a plan with your physician or your campus Student Health Services about medication management and medical care needs.
If you take medications, inquire if your prescription is legal and available in the host country. Read the UCEAP Program Guide, Prescription Medications section and the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad. Your doctor will determine, based on your medication, whether you can take an extra supply of medication that will last through your stay abroad.
Make sure the person has the necessary passport, visa, documentation, insurance, and immunizations for traveling and living abroad. Consult with your campus EAP advisor and the UCEAP Systemwide Office Program Specialist. Consider the following questions: Where will he or she live? (Some programs can only accommodate students.) What kind of funding will he or she need? If you will need to hire an assistant abroad, find out before departure what steps are needed and what funding will support this cost.