Student to Student
Study Abroad with a Disability
Everyone who has the opportunity to study abroad should take advantage of it, including those with disabilities. I am legally blind and therefore an example: if you have a disability and would like to study abroad, it can be done.
Those of us with disabilities know that like anything else it will take more effort then that of the average student. In preparing to study abroad you not only must make sure that the university that you want to attend has the appropriate program to meet your academic needs; it also must have the necessary services to accommodate your physical needs. I communicated with the disabilities support coordinator at the Univ. of Sunderland in England for such a long period of time before I left that the first thing she said to me was, "I feel as if I already know you so well."
And she in fact did. She knew exactly what my disability was and the type of services I would need. I was able to order my textbooks on audio tape before I left and thus was able to bring them with me. She also provided me with a new computer, on which I installed my own enlarging software.
She even notified all of my future professors of the various services I would need. For the most part, all of them were prepared and more than willing to help in any way they could. I can not say enough about how this careful preparation made my transition to the university a smooth one.
For a disabled person, traveling alone is a concern, but, again, not impossible. If I called the airline and told them that I was disabled and thus needed assistance in finding my various connects, they were always very helpful in making sure that there was someone there to help me. Even if I did not call ahead, generally people were very nice about offering assistance.
Having a disability was not a liability in making friends; in fact, it was an asset. Friends I made said they learned from me that a person with a disability should not be defined by their impairment but rather as a person who is able to travel and take advantage of such a life-altering experience, merely with added assistance.