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.
- Students with Disabilities Study Abroad, Too
- Statistics on the Benefits of Study Abroad—compiled by the University of California, Merced.
Study Abroad has developed the following resources to aid students with disabilities in planning a beneficial international experience:
- What is a disability?
- Planning for study abroad—preparation is key!
- Requesting accommodations
- Choosing a program
- Planning resources
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.
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.
- Disability Rights and Laws Internationally vs. the ADA: Some information on how to research disability rights in your host country
- Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund—List of disability laws by country
- You can also follow @DREDF on Twitter or on Facebook for up to date information, as well as to ask country-specific questions.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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.
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.
- Culture Shock
- Global Disability Culture 101
- Strategies for Addressing Cultural Disability Differences
- Information sessions: informal meetings in the study abroad office with peer advisors to go over the basics of study abroad and the process
- Walk-in hours for advising: get more specific information from study abroad specialists on specific regions or programs during the fall and spring semesters, by appointment only in the summer
- A Student's Guide to Study Abroad: a free comprehensive guide to study abroad
- Disability Services for Students
- WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion
- Mobility International has a wealth of information focused on students with disabilities going abroad, including tip sheets, scholarship info, student reflections on their experiences, and more.
- Tip sheet for medications
Resources for specific disabilities: what to expect, tip sheets, student experiences, and more.
- Blindness and Low Vision
- Chronic Health Conditions
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing
- Learning Disability
- Mental Health Conditions
- Physical Disability
- Student Experiences:Students at the University of Minnesota share their experiences studying abroad with a disability
Traveling with a Disability:
- Before, During, & After: Travel Tips for Students Abroad with Disabilities
- Air Travel with Disabilities, Transportation Security Administration
Study Abroad Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
- American Association on Health and Disability
- API Diversity Scholarship (for use with API programs only)
- CEA Diversity Scholarship (for use with CEA programs only)
- Diversity Abroad
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: For students who are receiving Pell Grants
- Boren Awards: provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad.
- Grants for IES programs
- American Institute for Foreign Study
- Institute of International Education Search Engine
- IIE Travel Grants
- CIEE Robert B. Bailey Scholarship (for use with CIEE programs only)
- Fund for Education Abroad
- Scholarships and Financial Aid for Students with Disabilities
- William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship (for study at the American University in Dubai)
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
- 1800 Wheelchair Scholarship: students who apply must explore mobility issues on campus and/or express personal experiences with such issues (family, friends, or self):
- Christine H Eide Memorial Scholarship: for students who are legally blind
- Lilly Reintegration Scholarship: for students with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and major depressive disorder
- Scholarship Trust for the Hearing Impaired: scholarships for areas of need (within education) directly related to hearing loss
- American Council for the Blind: for students with vision loss
- National Federation of the Blind: for students with vision loss
- Incight Education: for any student with a disability
- 180 Medical Scholarship Program: for students with spinal cord injury, spina bifida, transverse myelitis, or neurogenic bladder.
- Michael Yasick ADHD Scholarship: for students with ADHD
- Council of Citizens with Low Vision International: offers several scholarships for students with low vision and those attending a school with programs for blindness and low vision studies.
- Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults: scholarships for young adults who have or have had cancer, or have cared for a family member with cancer.
- Patient Advocate Foundation: scholarships for students who have been diagnosed with and/or actively treated for a life threatening illness within the last 5 years.
- Shire ADHD Scholarship Program: for students diagnosed with ADHD
- Eric Marder Scholarship Program of IDF: for students living with primary immunodeficiency diseases.
- Family Epilepsy Scholarship Program: for students living with epilepsy or family/caregivers of a person with epilepsy.
- The Organization for Autism Research: scholarship for students with Autism.
- Cystic Fibrosis Scholarsip Foundation Scholarships: for students living with cystic fibrosis.
- Another comprehensive list from onlineschools