Studying Abroad with a disability
Studying abroad with a disability is more common than you would think and many people take the plunge to move their studies abroad, and feel better for it. In fact, 10 out of 10 students who went abroad with a disability said they’d recommend others to do the same, according to our survey. Starting your research early and finding out about the universities and the help on offer is the first place to start in your search for your year or semester abroad. Speaking to your home university’s International Office is top of your list.
Mention to them your particular disability and the help and assistance you may require - most team members will then be able to guide you as to where you should choose to study.Talk to other students with disabilities who have travelled abroad, or ask study abroad staff to put you in touch with someone on site who has a similar disability and can give you firsthand information about the potential barriers and help at hand in that country. Students planning on studying abroad usually have to ask themselves a few questions about why they’re going, what they plan on achieving and how their year will help them in the future. Students with a disability also have to ask themselves how they will respond if people abroad don’t respond well to their disability.
Culture shock, in this sense, can be upsetting and you can feel isolated, which is why it is best to research your options, but with the right amount of planning and determination, you can make your study abroad experience a smooth transition.
Speaking to the course coordinator from the foreign university and fellow students can help make things a little easier, as they’ll be aware of what you may require if you choose to study there. You can also get in touch with the following organisations, European and American, to get an idea of what help is at hand, should you need it, and to find out how accommodating cities are for the disabled:
Confederación Española de Personas con Discapacidad física y orgánica
Calle de Luis Cabrera 63
tel: +34 91 744 3600
fax: +34 91 413 1996
Fondazione Handicap Dopodinoi onlus
Borgo Pio 10
+39 80 609 01009
40 239 Dusseldorf
6. Czech Republic
World Federation of the Deaf (Central European Regional Secretariat)
Czech Union of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Karlinske Namesti 12
18603 Praha 8, Karlin
fax +420 2 24 816 829
Mobility International USA
132 E. Broadway
Suite 343 Eugene
tel: +1 (541) 343 1284
fax +1 (541) 343 6812.
9. Student Organisation
SKILL, The National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
18-20 Crucifix Lane
London, SE1 3JW.
tel: +44 207 450 0620 or 0800 328 5050
fax: +44 20 7450 0650
10. Useful Websites and case studies
Many of the organisations above have websites that list their worldwide member organisations.
- The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) has an extensive database of deaf resources in England and around the world, including deaf clubs and organisations and places to learn different sign languages.
- AbroadWithDisabilities.org hosts live Skype discussions twice a month on studying abroad with a disability.
- Jennifer Murray from Glasgow, Scotland who is blind and hearing impaired, blogs about her year as an English Language Assistant in Spain with the British Council, and how the experience has changed her.
- ESL Language study trips for students with disabilities
- Don't let disability dictate your year abroad: Jamie is studying Italian and German at Durham Uni, and is spending his year abroad as a Language Assistant in a bilingual town in South Tyrol. In his Guardian article, he says, "I was open about being a wheelchair user from the very start. But rather than recoiling in horror, they saw it as a welcome challenge."
11. Accessibility and Transportation
Accessibility varies widely throughout Europe so you should contact local disability organisations for specific information. National tourism offices sometimes have guides for travellers with disabilities, and local transportation departments can advise on their policies. For information see the web site for European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), or contact them directly:
2 rue André Pascal
F-75775 Paris Cedex 16
+33 1 45 24 9710
These are the things you really need to think about before you go so that when situations are tough in another country - and they will be in the beginning - you don’t forget why you were determined to go in the first place. Finding alternatives is all part and parcel of studying abroad in the first place, and more so at times if you have a disability. Bear this in mind, don’t give up and look on the positive side if a hurdle comes about, and you’re sure to have the time of your life. Good luck!