International travel is accessible to everyone, but it is important to be aware that you may encounter differences in attitudes and laws regarding physical, mental, and chronic illness depending on your destination. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not enacted in other countries, though most hosts and facilitators are eager to coordinate accommodations abroad. As you plan, you should seek to understand your host country’s cultural approach to disabilities and accessibility, as well as the demands of your program abroad. Accessibility measures that you’re used to at home—such as wheelchair-friendly pedestrian walks, ramps and elevators, or academic resource centers—may not be as prevalent abroad.
Preparation and communication are key to ensuring a positive international experience. It is important to inform your Education Abroad coordinator and the Office of Accessibility Services of your accessibility needs early in the process of planning your travel. Coordinators and OAS can help organize accommodations and direct you to resources that best address your needs. You should also establish early communication with your professors, faculty leaders, and/or administrators abroad.
As you research, consider these questions:
What laws and norms are in place to address my disability or accessibility needs in my host country?
What are the physical, mental, and academic demands of this program? Can I expect comparable accommodations abroad to those I receive at home?
How will the prevailing attitudes and perceptions in my host culture impact my daily life, if at all? How will I prepare for a cultural shift?
Am I comfortable seeking out help while abroad? Do I have ready access to key contacts who can help coordinate accommodations?
How do my disability and/or accessibility needs interact with other aspects of my identity in the context of my host country?
What information and/or support systems do I need in order to ensure my safety and well-being while abroad?
Am I able to achieve and experience the things I want from this program in a safe way?
WVU Office of Accessibility Services: https://accessibilityservices.wvu.edu/
Mobility International: https://www.miusa.org/plan/americans-abroad
U.S. Dept. of State, Traveling with Disabilities: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/travelers-with-special-considerations/traveling-with-disabilties.html
GoAbroad’s Mental Health and Self-care Guide: https://www.goabroad.com/downloads/meaningful-travel-tips-tales-for-mental-health-goabroad.com.pdf
CDC, Traveling with Disabilities: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2020/travelers-with-additional-considerations/travelers-with-disabilities