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Identities Abroad: Disability

Identities Abroad: Disability

As a person with a disability, whether visible or invisible, you may have concerns about finding the accommodations you need while traveling abroad. Prior to traveling, you will need to be aware of laws concerning your disability at the federal, state, and local levels. If applicable, you will also want to research the accommodations available through your host organization or agency. While you are engaging in your social work practice abroad, you will need to know what sources are accessible to you in the community, especially regarding healthcare and medications. In some places, certain medications may be illegal. The Office of Global Activities is here to assist you as you navigate this process. Below you will find tips, considerations, and website links for your reference.

Questions to Consider

  • Does my host country have cultural barriers to receiving accommodations or different cultural attitudes on disabilities?
  • What are the local attitudes toward people with your disability? Is your disability visible or invisible?
  • Will I incur additional costs due to my disability? For instance, the cost of sign language interpretation or other special services; regular doctor visits in-country or prior to departure; or the cost of purchasing enough medicine for the full duration of travel.
  • What type of coverage will the mandatory U-M Travel Abroad Health Insurance provide? Will it meet my needs?
  • What medications can I bring? Can I obtain medication substitutions within the country?
  • Am I willing to disclose my disability to my contacts abroad?
  • Will my disability prevent me from participating in certain activities because of inaccessibility?
  • What accessibility policies/standards does my host country have at the federal level? What about the municipal or state level?
  • Will my host organization provide any accommodations for my disability?
  • Am I able to find accessible living arrangements?
  • Will I need accommodations while traveling, especially while traveling by airplane?
  • Does my host country have means of transportation that meet my needs?


  • Be prepared to make additional preparations for travel and potentially take on extra stress during the process. You may need to research accessibility in the host country, understand what protections and/or accommodations will be available to you overseas, and coordinate accommodations. You may find it helpful to reach out to other students with disabilities who have traveled abroad.
  • Be flexible. Keep in mind that accommodations you receive in the United States are never guaranteed abroad, as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not extend to international travel, nor are foreign institutions required to comply. Disability services and accessibility standards may vary (meaning you may not have the same amount or quality of support that you are accustomed to). Have a game plan for how you will overcome this.
  • Apply for additional funding. U-M is not required to provide funding for accommodations beyond the U.S. If you require accommodations that will incur additional costs (e.g., personal assistance services, service animals, sign language interpretation, etc.), you may be responsible for covering those costs. Consider searching for scholarships and grants for international travel or travelers with disabilities.
  • Identify your support system. Traveling abroad can exacerbate (pre-existing) mental health problems due to feelings of loneliness, isolation, homesickness, and anxiety. Understand who you can reach out to or what coping strategies you have in your toolbox.


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