Study Abroad

Reasonable Accommodations for Study Abroad Students

Students must work with the appropriate OAS staff member, OISP advisor and the prospective international institution. Please note that all requests for services and accommodations must be supported by the documentation on file with OAS and be reasonable and appropriate within the limits set forth by state and federal law and University procedure. The University will make efforts to assist students with finding reasonable accommodations to participate in the program. The accommodations cannot fundamentally alter the nature of a course or program of study or present an undue hardship for either Emory University or the host institution.

Although many countries are becoming more aware of the needs of people with disabilities, not all countries have similar laws and accessible infrastructure/services. Consequently, requests which may be reasonable in a domestic context may not fall into that category in the international context in light of available resources. The following recommendations are for students to consider when contemplating study abroad:

Request Study Abroad Accommodation Letter

Rights and Responsibilities in Study Abroad Planning

  • Fully research study abroad programs offered to students;
  • Meet all deadlines;
  • Pay for and budget all student fees required to study abroad;
  • Disclose disability-related condition(s) in a timely manner within the planning process to study abroad;
  • Recognize that accommodations planning requires extra preparation time; and
  • Request your accommodation letter be sent to you and your OISP advisor
  • Initiate discussion or communicate needs to OAS, OISP, and host institution—these offices will be unaware of any questions or concerns unless they are brought to their attention.
  • Ensure the student's right to confidentiality regarding disability-related issues;
  • Review student's documentation and determine appropriate accommodations for study abroad;
  • Advise student on what disability-related implications need to be worked out or addressed prior to and while in chosen host country; and
  • Make any recommendations to the study abroad advisor regarding student needs.
  • Assist in the articulation of any student accessibility issues with host institution;
  • Ensure the student's right to confidentiality regarding disability-related issues;
  • Answer questions students might have regarding the registration and planning process for study abroad; and
  • Consult with OAS when necessary to obtain answers or feedback for any disability-related questions.

Study Abroad Considerations

The following considerations are identified to help prospective study abroad students with disabilities identify any implications needing troubleshooting. Additional considerations might emerge as the following are being addressed. Prospective study abroad students with disabilities should consider the following factors (additional considerations might emerge as each factor is addressed):

  • Meet with an academic advisor to discuss how study abroad can fit into your academic track.  When is the optimal time to participate in study abroad?
  • Begin to develop a plan of action for researching the host institution and country of interest. Consider attending preliminary sessions offered by the Study Abroad Office.
  • Any type of communication to parents is the student's responsibility. Study abroad and OAS cannot disclose any information to them.

Regardless of the nature or type of disability, the student should allocate a minimum of 6 months  to start planning with a study abroad advisor. Waiting too long to start planning might not provide enough time to have accommodations arrangements and procedures identified prior to departure date.

  • Research as much as possible about the country(ies), city(ies), and host university(ies) of interest. Cultural interpretation of disability is different in other regions. Consider causality, valued/devalued attributes, and anticipated roles. Is there disability-related governmental legislation?
  • How does the chosen host culture(s) define disability? How will questions about disability be answered? This information may provide an idea of how receptive a particular host institution will be with providing accommodations. Level of independence might change between Emory and a host country, therefore more accommodations might be necessary. This does NOT mean that independence is lost, rather, this is another way of doing things.

International Transportation Needs

  • It is imperative to find out if there are any accessible transportation resources or community support within a host country.
  • What kinds of travel accommodations will be required during travels within the city as well as between destinations?
  • Will covering costs of private taxis be feasible, when necessary, due to inaccessible public transportation?

Are there extensive financial costs involved with accommodations needs, and if so, how will these costs be supported?

  • Are replacement parts for auxiliary aids going to be to be readily available in the event damage occurs?
  • Is there access to agencies or professionals who can repair auxiliary aids, if necessary?
  • Are there any laws in the host country that support service animals? If not, how will this impact access?
  • Are there veterinary services available in the host city? If so, where are they located? Is it conveniently accessible?
  • What are the airline regulations for service animals traveling abroad?
  • Is there a Quarantine Period for Service Animals to or from your host country?
  • MIUSA provides specific information about Guide Dogs and Service Animals While on International Exchange.
  • What options are available through the program(s)?
  • Are the room dimensions physically accessible to individual needs?
  • What are the sleeping arrangements like?
  • Are there accessible bathroom and shower facilities within any of the housing options? If not, what can be done to address these accessibility issues?
  • How are needs going to be met if personal care assistance is required for activities of daily living such as meal preparation, grooming, dressing, restroom assistance, or laundry assistance? Are there agencies available to assist in the hiring process for personal care assistance in the host country?
  • How will costs with personal care assistance be covered?
  • MIUSA provides information on Personal Assistants on International Exchange Programs and the Personal Assistant Checklist.
  • Be aware of the nature of required coursework.
  • Will there be multiple choice or essay exams?
  • Are classes project-driven or exam-driven?
  • How much reading is involved?
  • Will document conversion be required and available?
  • What is the specific duration of the program of interest? How many classroom hours are required?
  • Are library resources accessible? If not, what can be done to provide access?
  • How will class work be evaluated, and what are the usual methods of instruction (i.e., lecture, seminar, tutorial, lab, discussion)?
  • Are the course materials that are audio or visual in format (e.g., videos, films) accessible to you (e.g., captioned videos)?
  • While studying abroad, there will likely be times when students have to complete curriculum activities or assignments outside the classroom for graded credit, or there might be free time on weekends when students can travel. Thinking critically about how accommodation needs may differ outside the classroom is needed.
  • Will mobility assistance for these activities be required? If so, who will be available to assist?
  • What are the overall conditions of the public sidewalks and pavement of streets?
  • Will students be required to stay in housing different from a permanent assignment for any outside activities? If so, is the alternative housing accessible?

Does the host college or university have a disability services office, or a point of contact designated to address accommodations needs?

Access to Additional Support Services (Counseling and Medical)

  • Investigate what resources are available through the host institution as well as any community resources to address medical, psychological, and/or informational support.
  • Mobility International provides comprehensive information regarding psychiatric disabilities and international study in their document, Mental Health-Related Disabilities: Considerations for Exchange Participants.

Check provision of Medicare and/or Medicaid, or primary medical insurance provider, about coverage abroad, and discuss any needs for covering pre-existing medical conditions.

  • How will refills of prescription medications be handled, especially if they are stimulant medication? Be sure to check whether prescribed medication is legal and available within a chosen host country. Contact the nearest consulate or embassy for the host country to inquire whether your medication is considered a controlled substance and to seek guidance on the best way to proceed. For assistance locating the nearest consulate, consult your OISP advisor.
  • Always carry medication in carry-on luggage in the event checked luggage is delayed or lost.
  • Medication should be stored in their original containers, and have all prescriptions written on your physician's Rx pad.
  • Check to see if it is possible to take enough medication to last your entire stay abroad. Make sure this is okay ahead of time.
  • Note that it is illegal to have additional supplies of any medication sent abroad via postal mail.
  • IF it is possible to take the US prescription and letter from your physician to an English speaking physician in your host country to get a local prescription (keep this information in mind):
    • Prescriptions may need to be translated, be sure these are accurately completed.
    • Do not forget to make sure the proper dosage you need exists in the host country.
    • HTH Worldwide provides an online Drug Translation Guide Demo for 295 brand-name prescription and over-the-counter medicines in 24 frequently visited destinations. Check to see if your destination is included.
    • Disposable Syringes:
      • Research whether or not disposable syringes will pass the security check in the airport.
      • Some countries may restrict the import of syringes.
      • If you are able to take syringes on the plane, leave them with the flight attendant.

Study Abroad - Disclosure

US law protects your right to choose whether or not you wish to disclose. However, if you choose to disclose, your study abroad advisor will be available to work with you and your specific accommodation needs. What protections are available in the host country depends on the laws in that country.
Study abroad advisors are not allowed to ask questions related to disability or accommodations during the application process unless the program can prove that the specific disability-related information is directly necessary for conducting their particular program. However, this information cannot be used to screen out an applicant. A student participant must be considered based upon their qualifications, regardless of disability type (MIUSA).

After an acceptance into a particular program is received, disclosure regarding your need for disability services to both your study abroad coordinator and OAS should be made. Prior to your acceptance, you should have already been researching your potential host institution and troubleshooting solutions for any accommodation / accessibility issues. As a reminder, you are not obligated to mention your disability in any personal statements during the application process, if you choose not to do so.

In a few programs, students do not learn about acceptance to their host institution until just before they depart. If a student waits to declare a disability until after acceptance, this lack of planning time can make it difficult to impossible to arrange for accommodations at the host institution. Keep this factor in mind when choosing and planning your study abroad experience.

If a student with a disability is not currently registered with OAS, but wishes to receive accommodations for their Study Abroad experience, you will need to begin the registration process.  For more information, please visit the registration page, phone the main office at 404-727-9877, or, email

Once documentation is reviewed, a disability specialist from OAS meets with the student to discuss accommodations needs and completes an Accommodation Letter. One copy of the Letter of Accommodations should be provided to your study abroad advisor and the original should remain at OAS.

Study Abroad - Disability Accommodations

Disability accommodations should be worked out prior to departure. However, if an accommodations denial occurs, document when the denial was made, and in what manner it was made (e-mail and keep a hard copy of the denial, or document the date and time it was made and by whom). Contact OAS and your study abroad advisor. Remember, there may be a time difference, therefore, if you call after 5 PM or before 8 AM eastern time, leave a voice mail, along with the time difference, and a number where you can be reached. From there, interaction with the host institution can begin to address your articulated concern. However, neither Emory nor OAS can guarantee any particular result in any particular case.

The choice to use accommodations is entirely up to the student, but depending upon circumstances, if refusing accommodations while studying abroad means the possibility of posing a direct threat to personal safety of self or others, a student will likely be denied participation in a selected study abroad program. It is also important to remember that if a student does not choose to utilize accommodations during their study abroad experience, and then happens to do poorly in their classes, grades are NOT retroactive, meaning that once a grade is earned, it cannot be changed.
The general answer is No. Participants with disabilities must collaborate with OAS and their Study Abroad advisor to identify all possible issues and implications relating to physical accessibility, and then identify potential solutions to such issues. Circumstances are addressed on a case-by-case basis. The earlier the planning is started, the better the chances any identified issues can be resolved effectively and in a timely manner.

Other Useful Forms for Study Abroad Planning