The Office of International Education (OIE) at UW-Stout is committed to providing access and reasonable accommodation in its services, programs, activities, and education for individuals with disabilities. We encourage individuals with disabilities to contact Disability Services as soon as possible to discuss accommodation needs and options. Some accommodations may require a minimum notice of six months. Experience tells us the key to success is early notification and planning. OIE and Disability Services are here to assist you before and during your time abroad.*
Just as cultures differ, so too does the degree of access and readily available disability services in the many countries and communities a student might consider for their study abroad/away experience. Students with disabilities have successfully participated in many such programs; however, not every study abroad/away experience is a good fit from an accessibility perspective.
Planning a successful and accessible study abroad/away experience is a collaborative process that includes the student, Disability Services, OIE, UW-Stout and its faculty, as well as the host institution and its faculty. Each has an important role to play in ensuring that students with disabilities can participate fully in a study abroad/away experience.
- Fully research study abroad/away programs offered. Consider both your educational goals and the specific accommodations you may need to participate in and meet the program standards.
- Recognize that accommodation planning requires extra preparation time, often well in advance of application deadlines and notification of acceptance to a program. This is particularly true if accommodations include any of the following: sign language interpreting, captioning, conversion of print to audio or Braille, or mobility considerations including but not limited to transportation and housing.
- Create a realistic budget for program expenses, including personal expenses associated with disability-related needs (e.g., personal attendant services, specialized equipment, adaptive technology, medication, or other health care costs, etc.)
- Meet all application and fee deadlines.
Disability Services Responsibilities
- Assist you and OIE in evaluating the accessibility of any study abroad/away program.
- Recommend reasonable accommodations for selected study abroad/away programs in consultation with you, OIE, host institution, and host faculty.
- Recommend reasonable accommodations to encourage an accessible study abroad/away experience; however, it may be dependent on services available in the study abroad/away location.
Office of International Education Responsibilities
- Provide resources about accessibility in programs.
- Consult with Disability Services to obtain answers or feedback for any disability-related questions.
- Serve as the primary liaison between UW-Stout faculty and the host institution regarding identifying your accessibility needs and reasonable accommodations.
- Assist in the coordination of reasonable accommodations provided for the study abroad/away experience.
UW–Stout Faculty and/or Host Institution Responsibilities
- Identify essential program standards for the study abroad/away program.
- Assist in identifying reasonable accommodations and resolving access concerns that allow full access to the extent possible without fundamentally altering the essential requirements of the program.
- Determine whether you will be able to meet the program standards with or without the accommodations that can be provided in that country/location or experience.
- Assist with in-country problem-solving for unanticipated concerns.
Timeline and Success Strategies for Studying Abroad/Away
- START EARLY! Discuss your accommodation needs with Disability Services and your Study Abroad Advisor. Students using accommodations need to start planning six months to a year prior to the program start date. The more extensive your needs (e.g., sign language interpreters or accessible transportation and housing), the more advanced planning time is necessary.
- REGISTER with Disability Services if you have not already done so. The process for determining eligibility for accommodations can require additional time depending on your disability and your documentation.
- RESEARCH various study abroad/away programs. Attend information sessions, speak with a peer advisor about program options, review the webpage. Consider the connections to your educational and personal goals as well as the requirements for acceptance to a study abroad/away program.
- ATTEND the Study Abroad Fairs in September and March to speak with faculty and previous student participants about their programs. Students have found it helpful to talk to others with similar disabilities who have studied abroad. If there is no previous UW-Stout participant with a disability like yours, OIE may be able to connect you with non-UW–Stout students who have studied at the location of your choice.
- IDENTIFY accommodations that would minimize barriers and enhance your participation and enjoyment while abroad/away. Keep in mind that due to differing environments, you may need accommodations or assistance there that you may not typically need in the United States.
- GATHER information on each program relating to your individual needs (arranged and public transportation, housing, alternative test taking, course requirements, etc.). OIE can work with you to find compatible sites with your interests, and identify accommodations, as well as support systems, in the host country that best coincide with your educational and disability needs.
- NARROW your options to one or two programs of interest.
- SPEAK to the Study Abroad Advisor responsible for your selected program(s).
- CONSIDER your accommodation needs as well as financial assistance, personal assistants, or assistive technology.
- MAINTAIN regular and consistent communication with Disability Services. Schedule regular check-in meetings before you depart for your study abroad/away program.
- DEVELOP a budget and a financial plan for accomplishing your goal.
- SELECT a study abroad/away program and apply!
Study Abroad/Away Program Considerations
The following series of questions prompt you to consider aspects of the different programs you are contemplating. Identify different situations that may arise before and during your study abroad/away experience. This list is not comprehensive, and there may be additional factors to discuss with Disability Services and OIE.
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/away. How may this impact your daily activities and/or accommodations?
- How are the courses designed and what type of coursework will be required in your study abroad/away program?
- Does the 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 requesting interpreting and/or real-time captioning, what is the duration of the program? How many classroom hours are required in your program?
Note: It is important to research accessibility information prior to leaving the country and to be prepared in case things do not go as planned. It is critical to have a back-up plan in place.
- How would you approach traveling on an international airline and in an international airport?
- What types of accessible public transportation are available in the host country/community?
- What types of transportation are used most often in your study abroad/away program?
- What are the overall conditions of public sidewalks and pavement of streets?
- What are the housing options through the program and what accommodations do you need?
- Are the room dimensions physically accessible to individual needs?
- Are there elevators available in the housing facility?
- Are there accessible bathroom and shower facilities? How close are they to your room?
- Are there flashing fire alarms in the housing facility? In your room?
- What are the sleeping arrangements like in the program?
- How might technology in the host country/community 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?
- Are there any laws in the host country that support service animals?
- Are there veterinary services conveniently available in the host country?
- What vaccines, documentation, and tests are required to bring your service animal into the host country (or other countries) and back into the United States?
- Will public transportation allow service animals in all the countries you may be visiting?
- What are the different rules and regulations that may affect service animals during my international travel?
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I disclose my disability when I apply for a study abroad/away program?
Disability information is an educational record protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which governs the privacy of student educational records. You may disclose disability information and are strongly encouraged to do so. FERPA authorizes OIE to seek confirmation of disability status and need for accommodation because it has a legitimate educational interest and need to know in order to fulfill its professional responsibilities. Disclosure permits the Study Abroad Advisor to work with you and answer important questions about what access is available in the countries/locations and programs you are considering. Protections available in different countries depend on the laws in that country, not the laws in the United States.
Can I be denied admission to a study abroad/away program on the basis of my disability?
Not all study abroad/away programs are accessible to every student. When a program has a specific educational requirement, a reasonable accommodation may not be attainable to provide reasonable access for you to meet the essential course standards. Likewise, if you do not provide sufficient notice to allow accommodations to be arranged, you may not be able to attend. However, each situation is unique and requires careful and thoughtful review. Creative solutions have been identified for many students needing complex accommodations when sufficient time is available to collaborate and problem solve.
What do I do if I am denied access to academic accommodations for my disability once I arrive at my host institution?
Accommodations should be determined prior to your departure. However, if an accommodations denial occurs, document when the denial was made and in what manner it was made (keep any documentation available). Call or e-mail your UW-Stout Study Abroad Advisor in OIE and Disability Services. Let them know what happened, providing any detail and documentation that you have. Although UW–Stout cannot guarantee any particular result, OIE can follow up with the program to determine the source of the denial and to determine alternative solutions.
What if I decide not to use accommodations abroad/away?
The choice to use accommodations is entirely up to you. However, if refusing accommodations while abroad/away could pose a risk to the personal safety of you or others, you might be denied participation in a study abroad/away program. It is also important to remember that if you decline to use available accommodations provided during the study abroad/away experience, and do poorly in classes, the grade earned will stand.
- Google Maps Wheelchair Accessible Routes: Article on how to find wheelchair accessible routes through Google Maps
- Mobility International USA (MIUSA): Resources for Americans going abroad and how to plan and prepare
- UW-Stout's Disability Services
*This page was prepared in collaboration with the Disability Services office. The Study Abroad Team wishes to express its gratitude for the collaboration, input, and support.