Welcome! We are committed to supporting students with disabilities and are excited that you have decided to pursue a global engagement experience. We recognize that your disability (in addition to other identities that you may hold) can influence your global engagement journey – from program selection through your return to Elon.
We are here to support you and welcome your questions and concerns. We encourage you to disclose your disability early in the process of planning a global experience. This will allow you sufficient time to investigate a number of options for programs that meet your academic interests and to explore the availability of accommodations prior to making a program selection.
Students with disabilities can and do participate in global engagement programs. Mobility International USA provides an overview of the percentage of students with disabilities who participate in study abroad and their satisfaction with their experience overseas.
The GEC has curated a list of resources as a starting point. We invite you to explore the resources below and contact us regarding further questions. While it remains the student’s responsibility to disclose any disability that requires accommodation and to make plans for their needs, we strive to advocate for students on their global engagement journey.
“People with disabilities live in every country. But, the degree to which they participate in society (school, work, community life) is significantly influenced by the cultural roles and expectations placed upon them.” — Global Disability 101, Mobility International USA
Similar to race, ethnicity, or gender, disability is culturally defined and varies across countries. Compared to navigating Elon and the surrounding areas, there may be a distinct cultural context to negotiate at your host institution, in your host city, and in your host country. Mobility International USA has a helpful guide, Disability Culture Around the World, which offers insightful tips and strategies for planning your study abroad experience.
It is important to remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are U.S. laws – they are not enforced outside of the United States. For destinations abroad that you are considering, the local laws governing access may differ from the U.S. Students may need to be flexible and willing to adapt during their term away.
Please note that accommodations that represent a fundamental alteration of the program or that create an undue hardship will not be provided. All decisions regarding accommodations will be made on a case-by-case basis. If accommodations are needed and not available at a particular site, then students may not be qualified to participate in that specific program.
In addition to academic and financial planning for global engagement, you may want to consider these questions as you research programs (Adapted from the University of Maryland, College Park’s Education Abroad Office):
- What are the attitudes toward individuals with my disability in the cultures I am exploring?
- If I utilize academic, mental health, medical or other resources at Elon, do I anticipate utilizing these resources away? How can I find the resources I need? What is the financial cost of these resources and what can my insurance cover?
- How different is the academic environment compared to Elon and what are the learning expectations? How does my potential host institution define learning disabilities?
- Would my host program be able to accommodate my dietary needs? How much control would I have over my food options?
- Is the medication I need to support my well-being legal in my host country? Are there special considerations for storing my medication while traveling or while away?
- What are the physical environments of the host institutions and host cities that I am considering? Are elevators available?
- Is public transportation accessible (bus, tram, train, airport)?
- How accessible are the housing options? Are dining areas, laundry rooms, and study areas accessible as well?
- Are bathrooms in academic buildings, housing options, libraries, and other areas accessible?
- Are there unique considerations for my disability for experiential program components, such as mandatory study tours, internships, or research?
- Register with the Disabilities Resources, if currently not registered. Many programs will ask for proof of accommodations at Elon as part of the process of requesting accommodations.
- Each program brochure page highlights accessibility details for the program, including the activity level – this is a great starting place to learn more if the program will be a good fit. We welcome additional questions that you may have about accessibility.
- Begin to create a budget for any additional considerations.
- If you are taking prescription medication, begin to research if this is available in your host culture.
- If you have a medical condition, discuss your plans to study abroad with your doctor and check in with your insurance about coverage. You can find information on Health and Safety Abroad that can guide your preparations.
General Information for Students with Disabilities
- Travelers with Disabilities – U.S. Department of State
- Students with Disabilities Abroad – Diversity Abroad
- 7 Tips for Studying Abroad with Disabilities and Chronic Conditions – GoOverseas.com
- Mobility International USA – Resources and Stories
Resources for Specific Disabilities
- Autism Spectrum – Mobility International USA
- Blindness and Low Vision – Mobility International USA
- Celiac Travel – Celiac Travel.com
- Gluten-Free Passport – Gluten-Free Passport.com
- Chronic Health Conditions – Mobility International USA
- Eating Disorders Abroad – Global Learning Office, Northwestern University
- Learning Disabilities – Mobility International USA
- Mental Health Conditions – Mobility International USA
- Physical Disabilities – Mobility International USA
- Wheelchair Travel – Wheelchair Travel.com
After students are accepted, they should initiate the process of requesting accommodations on their host program. If a student chooses to not disclose disability-related needs prior to arrival at their host institution, the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center (GEC), Disabilities Resources, and the host institution will determine if accommodations are possible. It may not be feasible to make arrangements for accommodations requested too close to the departure date or once on site.
As you prepare, you may want to consider these questions:
- Am I aware of any stipulations regarding prescription medications in my host culture?
- What information may I need to obtain from my doctor or other medical professionals?
- What kind of self-care strategies may I need to develop?
- If I need to make a last-minute change to medications or accommodations, who are the individuals with whom I need to connect?
(Adapted from the University of Maryland, College Park’s Education Abroad Office)
- Other cultures may provide disability access in a different way. By researching what types of accommodation are typically provided in your host country, you can be more prepared for what to expect while away. Adaptability will be key in navigating your global engagement journey.
- Consider how you will explain or answer questions about your disability in the language of your host culture—learn essential vocabulary words prior to your departure.
- Mobility International USA has compiled a list of tips for traveling with prescription medication and air travel tips for people with disabilities.
- Research communities or support networks for individuals with your disability in your host culture.
Your Identities and Global Engagement
The experiences of students with disabilities on global engagement programs are diverse. As you speak with previous students, keep in mind that students who share the same disability as you may have different experiences in the same country. Other identities, such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and nationality may impact one’s experience away.
In transparency, the field of global education does not amplify the wide expanse of experiences of students with disabilities. We encourage students to consider reading books or visiting travel websites dedicated to people with disabilities, blogs, podcasts, and YouTube videos created by travelers with disabilities (or local people with disabilities) in your host culture.
Podcasts, Journals and Articles
- Ripple Effects Podcast: Travelers with Disabilities Abroad – Mobility International USA
- A World Awaits You (AWAY) Publications – Mobility International USA
- Disability Crosses Borders Podcast
Videos and Webinars
- Disability Abroad: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (VIDEO – We Represent March 2021 Virtual Conference, Panel Discussion) This panel discussion features Jasmine Whaley, C’2013, who is a 2012 Gilman Scholar Alumni who studied abroad in Amman, Jordan.
- Identity Abroad: Person with Disabilities (VIDEO – We Represent June 2021 Virtual Conference, Panel Discussion)
- Disability and Identity Abroad (VIDEO – 2021 Joining Hands Virtual Symposium, Mobility International USA, Panel Discussion)
- Amplifying the Voices of Black Disabled People Abroad (VIDEO – Mobility International USA, Panel Discussion)
- Disability and Intersectionality – A Conversation with International Exchange Alumni with Disabilities (VIDEO – 2020 Joining Hands Virtual Symposium, Mobility International USA, Panel Discussion)
- Connecting with Disability Communities Abroad (VIDEO – Mobility International USA, Panel Discussion)
What should I do if things change? How do I deal with the unexpected?
If additional accommodation needs arise while the student is away, students must discuss these needs with Disabilities Resources and the study-away site to determine whether the additional accommodations are reasonable and appropriate.
You may be one of the few students who have a disability on your program and may encounter challenging experiences that are different from other students.
As you navigate these experiences while away, consider these strategies that may be helpful:
- Reflect on the skills that you have utilized in navigating Elon’s campus. What skills are transferable? How can you draw on your previous experiences to assist you in thriving in this new environment?
- Connect with local disabled communities in your host culture. Engaging with these communities can provide a nurturing environment and offer insight on how to navigate your experience abroad. If you need assistance in seeking these groups, contact the on-site staff on your program.
- Tap into your support network that you cultivated prior to departure – or – cultivate a new network while abroad.
- Engaging in conversations about your disability while away can be complex. If it becomes overwhelming, place boundaries on the conversations in which you engage. You are not required to educate individuals in your host country about your disability, similar to the fact that you are not required to educate individuals in the U.S. about your disability. Feel free to provide resources to curious individuals if discussing certain topics becomes exhausting.
- Connect with the GEC or with a trusted Elon faculty or staff member. We can talk through any issues that you are experiencing and support you in developing a self-care strategy – or if necessary – walk you through submitting a bias report incident.
Please share any concerns that have arisen on your program with the GEC – we welcome hearing feedback on how this journey can be more inclusive. We encourage students to complete their return evaluations within their MyElonGlobal portals. Students can meet one-on-one with their global engagement program manager.
Opportunities for engagement
- The GEC has several resources on how students can integrate their study abroad experience into their lives at Elon.
- Consider becoming a Global Ambassador.
- Submit an article to Diversity Abroad.
- Consider applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The National and International Fellowships Office advises students who are interested in this program.
- If you have ideas on programming that the GEC can do, please let us know! Contact Allegra Laing, Associate Director for Global Diversity and Inclusion.
Ripple Effects Season 3: #LifeAfterExchange (Podcast – Mobility International USA)
What Happens After? (VIDEO – We Represent March 2021 Virtual Conference, Panel Discussion)
This panel focuses on informing you about the numerous benefits post-grant that can help you by completing a Fulbright, Gilman, Critical Language Scholarship, or Boren Award. Panelists will discuss their experience finding a job, pursuing graduate programs, connecting with other alumni, professional development, etc.