If you have a disability, you are advised to consult with a Study Abroad Advisor and Towson University’s Disability Support Services office at least one year in advance of the date you wish to study abroad. Disclosure of a disability well in advance enables the Study Abroad Office to assist you in finding a program that accommodates your needs and interests. Even if you don’t think that you will need accommodations, it is wise to disclose your disability. Conveniences in the United States may not be available in other countries and many disability services that are provided at U.S. universities may not be overseas. Disclosing your disability allows Study Abroad and Disability Support Services staff members to help you identify a program that is right for you and prepare and plan accordingly for your time abroad.
Students registered with Disability Support Services who are eligible for accommodation at Towson University are also eligible for overseas accommodation when it can be arranged. Students not registered with Disability Support Services who are interested in requesting accommodations abroad must submit documentation supporting their request and register with Disability Support Services.
Attitudes toward disability and levels of accessibility vary from country to country. The United States is a leader in providing equal access for persons with disabilities. Many other countries and international universities are becoming more aware of the needs of the disability community but may not have the same level of access available. Meeting with your study abroad advisor and disclosing your disability is the first step to receiving assistance for your accommodation needs abroad.
Some examples of accommodations that may not be available or may be different include:
Cities with cobblestone streets and pavements that are not wheelchair accessible
Older buildings that may not have wheelchair accessible entrances or elevators
Additional testing time may not be available overseas, but in some countries, the time given to students to complete exams may be longer than what you typically find in the U.S.
Keep in mind that while overseas, you may need accommodations or assistance abroad that you may not typically need in the United States. Research the types of accommodation typically available in your host country and institution and plan accordingly in order to minimize barriers and enhance participation and enjoyment while abroad. Be prepared to be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating your disability.
Be Prepared and Flexible
An important part of your study abroad experience will include learning how the host country defines and responds to the needs of persons with disabilities according to their culture. Before you go, find out as much as you can about your host culture and how they view disability. 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.