Students with Disabilities

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels

Photo by Marcus Aurelius from Pexels


Going abroad for a couple of weeks or months is a huge decision. It can be  an even bigger decision if you are a student with a disability(s). When studying abroad on an exchange, field school, internship, or practicum it is important to understand that disability accommodations in the host country or community will be widely varied as well as others' awareness of and cultural attitudes regarding disabilities.

If you are considering a study abroad experience, it is important that you to communicate your unique needs to Education Abroad so that we can provide you with the support and opportunities to assess which programs/ destinations would be a fit for you and your study interests.

For all travellers, the key to success in studying abroad is based on being flexible and adaptable and expecting that each destination will  vary in accommodations that can be offered. However, more institutions are focusing on accessibility and adaptability for not only visible disabilities but also invisible disabilities.  Doing research ahead of time, asking for support, and making plans to support your individual well-being are also important steps to ensure success.

Unfortunately, not all accommodations can be met due to the local host country resources, conditions, the nature of the travel activity or cost.  VIU is committed to working with students to understand their needs and explore travel options that prioritize their safety and wellbeing.

We have compiled a list of resources and information to assist you in your exploration for the right Education Abroad program. We also have provided these resources to ensure you can make an informed decision and navigate concerns and considerations.

Information was resourced and adapted from: Ryerson University- Go Abroad pageDiversity Abroad, and Go Overseas page. 

  • How will I approach travelling on an international airline and in an international airport?
  • What is my study abroad destination's cultural attitude towards individuals with disabilities (mobility, hearing, vision, learning, anxiety, ADHD, etc.)?
  • In what ways should I prepare to adjust to living in a foreign country? (i.e., housing, food, culture, language, healthcare, etc.)
  • What is the physical environment of my study abroad destination or host university like?
  • What are the overall conditions of public sidewalks and pavement of streets?
  • If you require public transportation (i.e., buses, trains, planes) are they accessible?
  • Are there housing options that are accessible and close to studies/work?
  • How many on-site resources (offices, staff, hospitals, counselling centers, note-taking assistants, books on tape, etc.) are offered in my destination/university?
  • How different is the academic environment, and is there flexible accommodations (i.e., for longer test time, reduced workloads, mandatory excursions, etc.?
  • What barriers might I encounter (both in planning to go abroad, and while abroad), and how will I overcome them? What support do I need to help overcome these barriers?
  • 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?
  • Can I bring my prescribed medications through customs and to my host country?

  • Disability Laws: Every study abroad location has different laws and regulations regarding individuals with visible and invisible disabilities, the support, and the infrastructure that is provided to aid them. Not all of them will be inclusive and similar to your home country. Some countries might not even have basic support, so it is important to thoroughly research each destination and consider your list of criteria. Through this research process, you may end up removing many of the countries that do not offer you enough support through their legal framework for your disability. You may choose not to study abroad in a host country that does not legally require infrastructure for mobility disabilities, such as wheelchair ramps, let alone other accommodations.
  • University Accommodations: Not all host universities that interest you will provide the assistance required for your particular disability, so you may prioritize partner schools that are able to meet  your needs. Another option is to try and find a solution together with the university. Most of them will want to know what they can do to make you feel more comfortable, so communicating your needs is an important step and may even be able to start some sort of change within that university.

Medical tips:

  • If you take prescription medication, ensure that you have enough for the duration of your stay
  • All medication should be stored in their original containers with labels attached and visible
  • Carry a letter from your physician that describes the medication
  • Carry all essential medications in your carry on
  • Ensure your medication is legal in your destination country
  • Research how to access medical care in the host country that might be specific to your needs
  • Communicate any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns to your Travel Medical Insurance provider to ensure appropriate coverage for your time abroad
  • Accessibility Services.  If you are registered with VIU Accessibility Services, Education Abroad can work closely with you and an advisor to understand your particular needs and integrate them into your travel planning.  This is a confidential process that requires your consent.