The Catholic University of America

 Disability and Study Abroad



One of the most fulfilling aspects of study abroad is the opportunity to discover another culture and thanks to that process, to understand oneself better. It is important to be aware of the cultural differences about disability and accommodations in order to have a successful and safe experience abroad.

If you have serious medical problems, physical disabilities, or learning disabilities, it is in your best interest to notify the study abroad office early on so that they will be aware of your condition and special needs. Because of the stress, change in diet, and different living conditions in a foreign setting, some conditions may worsen while abroad. For example, students with respiratory problems may discover that the quality of the air in certain cities affects them adversely. Likewise, students with a history of mental health difficulties may find that the stress of adjusting to a new culture exacerbates their problem.

It is important to keep in mind that many foreign countries do not have the same accessibility laws as in the United States. Therefore it is imperative that you inform the study abroad office of your needs and/or concerns so that they can be of assistance, if necessary. If special accommodations for a physical disability or learning disability are needed, it is very important to inform the study abroad office in a timely manner as it may take a considerable amount of time to arrange.

Begin preparing now by doing the following:

  •  Disclose your disability needs to program staff early, so appropriate arrangements can be made in advance.
  • Remember that other cultures may provide disability access in a different way -- learn about what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country, and be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
  • Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability by reading, talking to other students, and attending pre-departure orientation sessions. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for the interaction between your disability and the new environment.
  • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in the language of your host country -- look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
  • And continue learning while you are abroad by talking with your new friends, host family, conversation partner, teacher, etc.
  • Accommodations Eligibility

Students registered with Disability Support Services who are eligible for on-campus accommodation are also eligible for overseas accommodation when it can be arranged.  Students are encouraged to speak with their study abroad advisers and request a copy of your accommodation letter to determine if their particular site can provide them with reasonable academic accommodations.

For students with physical, health or psychological accommodation needs due to a disability, you are strongly encouraged to have a disclose this information to the CUAbroad office during the application process in order to ensure that your needs can be met.

For more information, including helpful links, articles, and resources for any travel abroad with a disability, please see:

·         Mobility International USA

·         Transitions Abroad

·         Access Abroad


Information on specific countries:

Financial Aid Resources:

Financial Aid for International Exchange and Disability: This handout published by Mobility International USA explains how it may be possible to use Supplementary Security Income or Vocational Rehabilitation Funding toward study abroad.