Students with Disabilities

Why study abroad?

Studying abroad is one of the greatest experiences available to you at Western Michigan University. In addition to earning academic credits that apply to your degree program, studying abroad offers excellent opportunities to expand your cultural and self-awareness; it is also linked to achieving higher GPA’s and graduation rates. Additionally, it looks impressive on your resume. Never let a disability discourage you from pursuing a study abroad program. WMU Study Abroad staff can help you identify suitable programs. Informational brochure for students with disabilities.

Helpful articles:

Study Abroad has developed the following resources to aid students with disabilities in planning a beneficial international experience:

What is a disability?

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) as a person:

  • Who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Who has a history or record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  • Who is perceived by others as having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Planning for study abroad—preparation is key!

Disclosing your disability:

Oftentimes, students with disabilities feel concern about disclosing a disability when they are preparing to study abroad. However, it is very important that you think about disclosing your disability to your study abroad specialist while you are exploring program options. Your study abroad specialist will be able to help you plan which programs will be able to provide you the accommodations you need, whether those accommodations be an accessible residence or extended testing times. The sooner you can disclose the better. This will allow your specialist to work with program partners to make sure to get you accommodations. If you wait too long to disclose, it may be too late to get accommodations on a particular program. A good rule of thumb is to disclose with your study abroad specialist before or during the application process.

Disclosing a disability will not affect your eligibility to study abroad. WMU Study Abroad will help you find a program that meets your needs to ensure your success and a rewarding experience abroad.

Be aware that the ADA does not necessarily apply outside of the United States. WMU Study Abroad can work with the host university or organization to provide as many accommodations as possible, but you may not be guaranteed to receive all the accommodations you request. Even so, it doesn't hurt to ask.

Requesting accommodations

If you receive academic accommodations at WMU, you may also want them while you’re abroad. While you’re still in the planning stages of your journey, arrange a meeting with Disability Services for Students

All WMU students requiring accommodations while abroad must register with WMU Disability Services for Students (DSS) in person at least 8 weeks prior to departure by scheduling an appointment with Jayne Fraley-Burgett via email at or by phone at (269) 387-2120. DSS will then provide WMU SA with a letter of accommodation. WMU Study Abroad may not seek academic or non-academic accommodations for students who have not first registered with WMU DSS. 

Students from other institutions who participate in a WMU Study Abroad program and have an accommodation request must ask the disability service provider at their home institution to contact WMU Disability Services for Students (DSS) by emailing Jayne Fraley-Burgett at or by phone at (269) 387-2120. WMU DSS will then forward a letter of accommodation to WMU SA. Students may not seek academic or non-academic accommodations without first registering with WMU DSS.

Choosing your program

Questions to ask:

  • What is disability culture like in my host country?

  • How is teaching and learning different from what I’m used to, and how might that affect me in terms of my disability (lectures vs. discussions, reading and independent research, etc.)
  • What housing options are available?
  • How accessible is the campus? The city? The country? Is transportation available and accessible for me?
  • What accommodations are necessary for me to be successful in a program? (this will help you narrow down which programs might work best for you) Visit Mobility International for some context on international accommodations

Understanding differences in disability culture:

Not every culture views disability in the same way that the United States does. Mobility International has some great information on preparing for this very specific kind of culture shock. Use these resources to research the culture of your host country and consider how you’ll answer questions about your disability.

Planning Resources

Resources for specific disabilities: what to expect, tip sheets, student experiences, and more.

Other resources

Accessibility Overseas:

Traveling with a Disability:


Study Abroad Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Non-Study Abroad Disability-Related Scholarships

You may be able to apply these awards toward study abroad costs; be sure to ask each scholarship sponsor individually

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