Study Abroad

Don’t let a disability stop students from considering study abroad! Students with disabilities can and do study abroad, and are encouraged to explore their options with UCSC International Education Abroad Office and the Disability Resource Center.

The majority of UCSC students study abroad throughout the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). Although Education Abroad Program (EAP) office cannot guarantee the accessibility of study sites, the EAP office can advise students if a given site appears to be inaccessible and recommend an alternate site. Students who anticipate special needs should contact their DRC Coordinator and the campus EAP office as soon as possible for assistance and advice about participation and preparation.

Note: To determine if funding is available for accommodations abroad, students should begin by consulting with their campus UCSC Programs Abroad Advisor, the Disability Resource Center, and the Financial Aid office well in advance of their departure. Students should be aware that federal law does not require the University to provide funding for disability accommodations and/or facilities beyond U.S. borders. Students should check carefully with their DRC Service Coordinator to determine what services might be covered.

Study Abroad Tips

Early Disclosure: If the student is studying abroad on UCEAP, inform the Disability Resource Center of the disability related accommodation needs as soon as possible. It is important to let both of these offices know early in the process in order to best advise the student. Some accommodations can take 3-6 months in advance to prepare. If the student is not sure if they will use accommodations abroad, it is still important to make potential needs known so that a plan is in place should an unexpected problem arise. If the student is studying abroad on an independent/non-UCEAP program, contact the provider directly as soon as possible to determine their process and if their needs can be accommodated within their program.

Plan Ahead: Research the accessibility of each site to determine which destinations best suit the student’s academic endeavors and accommodation needs (see the disability categories below for questions to think about when planning). It is not possible to anticipate all concerns, but pre-departure planning will help. Among the resources available are the stories of study abroad returnees who can paint a portrait of the potential challenges and adventures of a host country.

For preparation tips and stories of students with disabilities who successfully traveled abroad check out Global Learning and Mobility International USA (MIUSA).

Be Flexible: Study abroad requires adaptability for people with and without disabilities. Living in a new culture will bring new challenges, including disability services and accessibility standards that might differ significantly from what the student is used to in the United States.

Documentation: The Disability Resource Center, at the student’s request, will write a letter documenting their disability related accommodation needs; this is sent to their host university via UCEAP. Ask for a copy of this letter for the student’s records. In addition, it is important to bring a copy of their medical documentation abroad, including prescription information. A copy should be left with the student’s parent or guardian in the event that their copy is lost or damaged.

Questions to Keep in Mind

Processing Disabilities (LD, ADHD, Psychological, Brain injuries)
  • Will the student need notetakers for class?
  • What is the student’s host university’s policies on extended exam time?
  • Are they willing to authorize the student’s usual test accommodations based on American medical documentation?
  • What tutoring services might be available?
  • If the student needs to see a doctor or therapist for psychological concerns while overseas, have they established this contact prior to departure?
  • Has the student considered bringing their personal tape recorder to tape lectures? Do they have permission to tape lectures?
  • Are books available on tape?
Chronic Systemic Disorders
  • If the student has respiratory problems or severe allergies, what is the air and environmental quality in the city they are considering?
  • If the student’s condition is affected by temperatures, what is the climate in their prospective host city?
  • What prior notification has been given to the instructors regarding potential absences should the student’s condition flare up unexpectedly?
  • Will the student need extended time on assignments?
  • If the student normally receive test accommodations, do they have authorization through the host university to receive the same accommodations there?
  • What special dietary considerations might the student have?
Deaf or Hard of Hearing
  • Will the student need an interpreter or Realtime Captioning? Who will be funding this accommodation? Where will the interpreter be hired? Does the interpreter know American Sign Language?
  • Sign language is not universal and may differ between countries that have the same spoken language. Students should find out the differences before leaving. It may be possible to depart early to learn the new sign language.
  • If the student is taking a personal FM system can they obtain batteries in their host country that work for their device?
  • Who will notify the student’s instructor of the need to wear the FM mic?
  • Will the student need a notetaker?
  • Are captioned videos available?
Mobility/Orthopedic Disabilities
  • Will the student take one or two wheelchairs? Electric or manual?
  • Does the student need a transformer? Is the voltage in their host country compatible with their transformer?
  • How will the student ship their chairs abroad?
  • Where can the student’s chair be repaired abroad?
  • Does the student need to make additional arrangements to get from the airport to the orientation site or to their host university?
  • Are the streets and/or sidewalks paved or cobblestone? Are there curb cuts for wheelchair access?
  • What is the accessibility of the host university and city (elevators, bathrooms, classrooms, housing, transportation, etc.)?
  • Is voice recognition software available?
  • Will the student need notetakers, scribes or transcribers?
  • What kind of field trips might the student’s program go on? Are they accessible?
  • Are lab or library assistants available in the student’s host country?
  • Does the student need extended time on assignments or exams?
Visual Impairments
  • Has the student contacted the consulate of their host country to determine if they will need to put their guide dog in quarantine?
  • Will special housing or food arrangements be necessary for the student’s dog? Is their dog allowed into the classroom?
  • Are alternate formats available? (books on tape, Braille, e-text, scanning, CCTV etc.)?
  • Will the student need a mobility assistant to help orient them?
  • Has the student obtained maps of their host city and enlarged them to become familiar with directions prior to departure?
  • What kind of test accommodations will the student need?
  • Is there Braille signage on buildings, elevators, classroom, etc.?
  • Will the student have access to accessible computer software in order to write papers or read assignments?

Medication and Medical Care Abroad

Before departure students should consult with a physician, the travel clinic or the UCSC Student Health Center about anticipated medication and medical care needs while abroad. If the student take medication, they should inquire if their prescription is legal and available in the host country, or if they will be able to take an extra supply of medication that will last during their stay. UCEAP students can contact EuropAssist to determine how to travel with medications and the availability of these medications abroad. EuropAssist can be contacted via email at or by phone at (866) 451-7606. Contact Customs to determine procedures for bringing the student’s medication into the host country. Also, if the student may need to see a doctor or psychologist while overseas, discuss with their UCEAP advisor what physicians or medical facilities are available in their host city. Establish contact with these medical providers prior to departure to clarify eligibility for services and payment issues.

Customs Restrictions

Certain items may be restricted by Immigration or Customs (Braille computers, tapes, medication etc.). Students should contact the Consulate of their host country to determine restricted items and what must be done to take them along and bring them home again. Sometimes a letter from the host institution and/or the University of California is required. Students should find out what they will need well in advance. Upon request, the UCEAP System-Wide Office will provide a letter to help with Customs.

Personal Attendants

Students bringing a personal attendant with them must make sure the attendant also has the necessary passports, visa, documentation, insurance, and immunizations for traveling and living abroad. Some additional questions to ask yourself include – Where will the attendant live? What kind of funding will the attendant need? If students will need to hire an attendant abroad, they should find out before departure what is needed to do so. If the student plan to participate on UCEAP and they intend to bring a personal assistant abroad, consult with their UCSC Programs Abroad Advisor before they apply to EAP.

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Last modified: May 30, 2024