Students with Disabilities

Traveling with a disability can pose unique opportunities and challenges.  IOS can work with students with disabilities as they prepare for their time off-campus – academically and personally.  Know that there are many resources for you on and off campus as you prepare for, attend, and return from your program off campus.  As you consider studying off campus, be sure to find out as much as you can about your host culture/community and how they view disability.  We strongly encourage you to do your research, talk to your support networks, talk to IOS and Disability & Access in order to get more information about disability in the places you are hoping to travel.

If you are thinking about or planning to study off campus – and you already receive accommodations through the Disability and Access Office – please meet with your Access Specialist to determine any accommodation needs specific to your off-campus study program.  Students can receive accommodations during off-campus study, but options may be different or more limited than they are at St. Olaf.  In addition to your Access Specialist, you should work with the Director of the  International and Off-Campus Studies Office, Jodi Malmgren, malmgren@stolaf.edu,  at 507-786-3375 or by stopping by the IOS office in Tomson 380.

Oles Go!  My Identity Abroad Story:
“I got the amazing opportunity to study abroad in Asia for J-term, however, my family and I were a little concerned about how my disability might factor into my success abroad. I met with my professors and the DAC before we left which was a great help in planning my trip. Having my professors know about my medical conditions and know how to best aid me in fully participating in activities really made everything easier, I didn’t have to worry so much about whether or not I could do what everyone else was doing. My trip was an amazing experience and I’m so thankful for everyone who came together to make it possible for me.”
– Rin Culhane ’21, Asian Con (Interim)

“The prospect of traveling around the world with Crohn’s disease was terrifying and virtually uncharted; in the weeks before I left, I remember making lists of all the things that could possibly go wrong and wondering whether a semester-long program was right for me. Turns out, Global semester was right — and the most wonderful fit! Working diligently with the IOS staff and field supervisors before I left and while I traveled helped to ensure that I remained healthy, stayed happy, and could not only participate but succeed in the transformative, impactful experience — alongside all of my peers! — that is study abroad.”
– Maren Miller ’18, Global Semester and Historical Geography and the Bible (Interim)

Helpful St. Olaf Resources:
Access Abroad – Student Accommodation Request Form
Disability & Access – Accommodations for Study Abroad
Disability & Access – Disabilities and International Study Abroad

Other Helpful Links:
Abroad with Disabilities
CDC – Traveling with a Disability
Diversity Abroad – Managing Mental Health Abroad
Mobility International USA
Mobility International USA – Air Travel Tips for People with Disabilities
Mobility International USA – Successful Study Abroad with a Mental Health Condition
Tips for Travelers with Disabilities in Europe
The U.S. State Department – Traveling with Disabilities
Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH)

Additional Considerations:
– When you are looking at programs, be sure to consider the physical, academic, and social environment(s) of the host community.  How may these environments or changes impact your needs or disability, if at all?  Additionally, be sure to consider what housing options exist in the host community.
– What does transportation look like in the host community?  Are you expected to travel by bus, train, car, etc.?
– In the same way that cultures or norms vary based on country/community, so does the perception of disability and accessibility.  What accommodation options will you have in the host community?  What is the perception of disability in the host community?
– How can you access resources related to your diagnosis/disability while off campus?  What are the procedures/options in your host community for lost medication, replacing batteries or parts to assistive devices, replacing assitive technology, etc.
– How flexible can you be while traveling or studying abroad?  Consider how you will mitigate new stressors, limited access, and/or other challenges while on the program and in the host community.  Consider how flexible you can be in terms of your schedule (when you eat, when you take medication, your sleep schedule, etc.).
– Do you plan to disclose your disability to the program or those you are traveling/studying with while off-campus?
– Before you leave, be sure to do your research!  Talk to other people with disabilities who have traveled to or live within the host community, attend IOS pre-departure orientation meetings, ask questions, etc.  The more you know before you leave, the more you can do to prepare yourself.
– Do you know how to explain or talk about your disability in the host language?  If not, be sure to research the vocabulary and language you might need to do so.
– What medication do you need to bring with you?  Is it legal or available in the host community?  Do you need to change your medication or dosage?  IOS strongly encourages you to talk with your Primary Care Provider(s) about medication or medical treatment you may need before you leave.  All medication should be packed in your carry on luggage and needs to be kept in the original pharmacy-labeled bottles.
– Traveling can add a new layer of complexity.  Be prepared for chance.  Know and trust yourself and your abilities.
– Talk with your Primary Care Physician and/or Therapist before you leave about strategies, resources, coping tools, and notification options for existing conditions or disabilities (ex. MedicAltert bracelets, etc.).