• Students walking down cobblestone road next to river in Spain
Center for Global Education

Students with Disabilities Abroad

» Students with Disabilities Abroad

Did you know that 11.2% of all U.S. study abroad students report having a physical, sensory, learning, psychological, and/or medical disability (2022 IIE Open Doors Report)? It is important to be aware of the perceptions and rights for people with disability accommodations abroad. Learn about steps, practical considerations, and students with disabilities stories' about studying abroad. 

As every students' abilities and needs are unique, meet with your Global Education Advisor to discuss any medical, mental health, or disability-related considerations so that the CGE can help you choose the best program fit and have a successful and safe experience.

Getting Started

Questions to Consider when Selecting a Program

The Center for Global Education can help you find a program that aligns with your needs, interests and considerations below:

  • What support systems will I need in order to be successful?
  • What resources does my program/university abroad provide?
  • How is the learning environment different? Are class assignments and assessment different?
  • Do I prefer a specific type of housing (dorm, homestay, apartment, shared/single room)?
  • How accessible are the program facilities, public transportation, and public spaces in my host country?
  • Will inaccessibility of sturctures and transportation prevent me from participating in certain excursions?
  • What are the cultural attitudes toward people with disabilities in my host country?
  • Will I need access to medication or other medical services? Are they available in my host country?

Disability Accommodations by Country

wheelchair symbol painted on sidewalk in MexicoPerceptions of disabilities vary from country to country and also within regions of the same country. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act are not enforced outside of the U.S. Some countries are required by law to provide physical and learning accommodations for people while others do not. Research the safety implications in the host country to help mitigate risks and understand how your abilities may affect your experience.

Check out the resources and accommodations available on each Chapman semester abroad program by reviewing Disability Resources by Program list. 

Google Maps Wheelchair Navigation: Instructions to access wheelchair-friendly public transportation in several major cities around the world.

Student on the ocean shoreline
Giselle ’21, Semester at Sea
It is so important that you advocate for yourself. I made sure the program and faculty knew that I was deaf and exactly how I communicate and function. They were able to offer me a transcriber so I could focus on having the experience of a lifetime instead of stressing over accommodations.
Student in wheelchair on cobblestone street in Spain
Makenna ‘18, Seville, Spain
As a young independent woman living with a physical disability, this experience abroad, hardships and obstacles included, showed me just how capable and resilient I am. A disability should never prevent you from enjoying the experience of a lifetime.
Student at the green Cliffs of Moher
Taylor, ’21, Limerick, Ireland
I was not going to let chronic illness define me. I had wanted to study abroad in Ireland for more than five years and I was determined to not let my diagnoses change such an essential desire of my college experience... It was often frustrating and scary, but choosing to go abroad was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Preparing to Go Abroad

Once you've been accepted into a program, the list of items below will help make sure you are prepared for your international experience.

  • Register with Chapman University’s Disability Services to help coordinate accommodations and services while you are abroad.
  • Disclose your disability needs to the Center for Global Education and host university/program staff early. While disability accommodations cannot be guaranteed abroad, with careful and timely planning, students with physical and learning disabilities may be accommodated at many sites. 
  • Other cultures may provide disability accommodations in a different way—be flexible and open to different ways of accommodating in your host country.
  • Research ahead of time your destination to understand how your disability may affect your experience and what to expect. Visit MIUSA: Mobility International USA: The National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange offers, for supporting students with disabilities in going abroad, advice and referrals, training, tip sheets, disability resources and success stories.
  • Review air travel tips, TSA disability and medical conditions information, and Department of State's Travelers with Disabilities.
  • Think about how you will answer questions about your disability in your host country language—look up key vocabulary words ahead of time.
  • To find communities through social media, you can follow @thechapmanspoonies @chronictravell @simplyemmablog @rexyedventures

While Abroad

Once you are abroad, check in with program staff to ensure that physical and learning accommodations are being provided.

You can always reach out to the CGE at globaled@chapman.edu if you need assistance or Public Safety in an emergency at (714)997-6763. 

Additionally, we would love to get any photos or stories about your time abroad. We can share them with other students who are considering studying abroad.