Students with Disabilities
UW-Platteville is committed to supporting students with disabilities in all aspects and encourages students to explore the opportunities education abroad has to offer. This includes students with disabilities of all types. Just as cultures differ, though, so does the degree of access and readily available disability services in the many countries and communities a student may consider for their study abroad experience. There are many study abroad programs in which students with disabilities have successfully participated; however, not every study abroad experience is a good fit from an accessibility perspective.
To maximize the opportunity to travel abroad and study internationally, it is important that students allocate a minimum of six months (preferably up to one year) in advance of their travel to plan for accommodations, regardless of the type of disability. Experience tells us the key to success is early notification and planning. The Services for Students with Disabilities and the Education Abroad office are here to assist you before and during your time abroad.
Planning a successful and accessible study abroad experience is a collaborative process that includes the student, the Education Abroad office, Services for Students with Disabilities, the host institution, and faculty. Each play important role in ensuring that students with disabilities are able to fully participate in a study abroad experience.
- Fully research study abroad programs offered through UW-Platteville. Consider both your educational goals and the specific accommodations you may need in order to participate and meet the study abroad 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.
- Contact the EA office and Services for Students with Disabilities prior to identifying prospective study abroad programs of interest.
- Create a realistic budget for study abroad 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.
Education Abroad Office/Services for Students with Disabilities Responsibilities
- Assist students in evaluating the accessibility of any education abroad program.
- Determine appropriate accommodations for selected education abroad programs in consultation with the student, one another, faculty, and the host institution.
- Coordinate reasonable accommodations needed to create an accessible education abroad experience, including sign language interpreters, captioning, conversion of print to audio or Braille, and class notetakers.
- Provide resources about accessibility on programs the student is considering.
- Consult with one another to obtain answers or feedback for any disability-related questions.
- Serve as the liaison between UW-Platteville faculty and the host institution regarding student accessibility needs and identifying reasonable accommodations (EA only.)
UW-Platteville Faculty/Host Institution Responsibilities
- Identify essential program standards for the education abroad 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 a student will be able to meet the program standards with or without the accommodations that can be provided in that country or experience.
- Assist with in-country problem solving for unanticipated concerns.
Timeline and Success Strategies for Studying Abroad
- START EARLY! Discuss your accommodation needs with your Education Abroad Advisor. Students using accommodations are to start planning 6 months to a year prior to the program start date. The more extensive your needs (for example, sign language interpreters or accessible transportation and housing), the more advanced planning time is critical.
- RESEARCH various study abroad programs. Attend information sessions and speak with the Education Abroad office about program options. Consider the connections to your educational and personal goals as well as the requirements for acceptance to a study abroad program.
- ATTEND the Education Abroad Fair in September to speak with faculty and previous student participants about their programs. Students have found it helpful to talk to others who have studied abroad.
- IDENTIFY accommodations that would minimize barriers and enhance your participation and enjoyment while abroad. Keep in mind that due to differing environments, you may need accommodations or assistance abroad that you may not typically need in the United States.
- GATHER information on each program relating to your individual needs, such as arranged and public transportation, housing, alternative test taking, course requirements, etc. The EA office can work with you to find compatible sites with your interests and 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 an Education Abroad Advisor responsible for your selected program(s).
- CONSIDER your accommodation needs as well as financial assistance, personal assistants, or assistive technology.
- DEVELOP a budget and a financial plan for accomplishing your goal.
- SELECT a study abroad program and apply!
Study Abroad Program Considerations
The following series of questions prompt you to consider aspects of the different programs you are contemplating. Different situations that may arise before and during your study abroad experience are identified. This is not a comprehensive list and there may be additional factors that should be discussed with the Education Abroad office or Services for Students with Disabilities.
Attitudes about Disability
1. How important is it for you to study in a place where disability accommodations are well-developed and cultural attitudes are progressive?
2. How does the chosen host culture define disability? What questions about your disability might you need to be prepared to answer?
3. Consider carefully how your communication needs may change while you study abroad.
4. How may this impact your daily activities and/or accommodations?
2. Does a program fit your learning style?
3. Are there structured schedules and assignments to help you manage your time?
4. Are there late morning classes to accommodate fatigue available in the program?
5. Can you arrange for test accommodations?
6. Will there be multiple choice or essay exams?
7. How much reading is involved?
8. For students using interpreting and real-time captioning, what is the duration of the program?
9. How many classroom hours are required in your program?
It is important to research accessible information prior to leaving the country and to be prepared in case things don’t go as planned. It is critical to have a back-up plan in place.
2. What types of accessible public transportation are available in the host country?
3. What types of transportation will be most often used in your education abroad program?
4. What is the overall condition of public sidewalks and pavement of streets?
2. Are the room dimensions physically accessible to individual needs?
3. Are there elevators available in your housing facility?
4. Are there accessible bathroom and shower facilities?
5. How close are they to your room?
6. Are there flashing fire alarms in your housing facility? In your room?
7. What are the sleeping arrangements in your program?
Medical Care & Auxiliary Aids
2. Can your current treating specialist refer you to possible agencies or professionals who may assist you in the event of an emergency?
3. Can you bring your prescribed medications through customs and to your host country?
2. Are there veterinary services conveniently available in your host country?
3. What vaccines, documentation, and tests are required to bring your service animal into your host country (or other countries) and back into the US?
4. Will public transportation allow service animals in all the countries you may be visiting?
5. Research the different rules and regulations that may impact service animals during international travel.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Should I disclose my disability when I apply for a study abroad 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. Students may disclose disability information and are strongly encouraged to do so. FERPA authorizes the Education Abroad to seek confirmation of disability status and need for accommodation as it has a legitimate educational interest and need to know in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities. Disclosure permits the study abroad advisor to work with you and answer important questions about what access is available in the countries and programs you are considering. Protections available in different countries depend on the laws in that country.
- Can I be denied admission to a study abroad program on the basis of my disability?
Not all study abroad 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 a student to meet the essential course standards. Likewise, if a student does not provide sufficient notice to allow accommodations to be arranged, the student may not be able to attend. However, a student may still be allowed to attend in these same situations - 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 email your education abroad advisor and/or Services for Students with Disabilities. Let them know what happened, providing any detail and documentation that you have. Although UW-Platteville cannot guarantee a particular result, the EA office 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?
The choice to use accommodations is entirely up to the student. However, if refusing accommodations while abroad could pose a risk to the personal safety of the student or others. It is also important to remember that if a student declines to use available accommodations provided during the study abroad experience, and does poorly in classes, the grade earned will stand.
Mobility International USA (MIUSA) - Resources for Americans going abroad and how to plan and prepare.