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UCLA Center for Accessible Education

CAE is happy to provide additional support to UCLA students who are studying abroad with the institution, UCEAP, or even a program unaffiliated with the university. Levels of support that the office is able to provide vary, depending on the program you are seeking out. Below is some information to consider in your plans for studying abroad with a disability.

How to Request Accommodations & Support

Regardless of the study abroad program or opportunity you are enrolled in or seeking out, CAE is happy to provide support in the form of a verification letter for your existing accommodations or discussing additional accommodations that may be possible, depending on the program you have in mind. Students should set up an Advising Meeting with their Disability Specialist at least two months prior to their departure to discuss this type of request further.

If you are studying in an independent program or in a program not affiliated with UCLA/UCEAP, we encourage you to seeking out their requirements for documentation and verification of your disability/need for accommodations before requesting support from CAE. Some programs may vary in their requirements for accommodations, which may affect what information CAE will need to provide to substantiate how your disability will impact your study abroad experience. Program requirements for documentation or disability-related needs should be directed to your study abroad program's advisor or director. 

UCLA Study Abroad

UCLA students have plenty of opportunities to engage in academic study abroad and earn credits toward their degree program with UCLA Study Abroad. The UCLA International Education Office (IEO) is the student destination for all things study abroad and offers a complete range of services for UCLA and visiting international students who wish to study abroad. Their team of study abroad advisors and program coordinators counsel students on academic, cultural and financial issues. More information on their programs and support for disabled students can be found below.

UCEAP Resources

UCEAP (University of California Education Abroad Program) is a UC systemwide study abroad program that allows students at any of the UC schools and students at other schools in the nation or internationally to enroll in international academic programs that are supported and backed by the University of California. They are different from programs directly offered by any of the individual UC schools, including UCLA, but nonetheless offer an opportunity to take classes abroad while getting credits that count toward your degree. More information on UCEAP and their accommodation processes for disabled students can be found in the resources below.

Things to Consider as a Disabled Student Studying Abroad

Courtesy of UCB's Disabled Students Program, we encourage students consider some of the following factors when planning for their study abroad at UCLA:

  • Because the Americans w/Disabilities Act and Section 504 are U.S. laws, these laws do not generally apply beyond the geographical boundaries of the United States. Thus students in other countries usually are dependent on the laws of the country where they are studying for purposes of what academic accommodations, if any, they are legally entitled to. 

  • Although the ADA/504 accommodation requirements do not extend beyond the jurisdiction of the USA, all aspects of a University program based within the United States must comply with these laws, such as program recruitment, application, screening, and acceptance procedures. If there is a University degree requirement that a student live or study abroad for some period of time, then there might be a duty to offer other ways (alternative to living abroad in an inaccessible country) to fulfill this degree requirement.  

  • Furthermore, even though U.S. law has no direct impact on foreign entities, the American entity that accepts federal funds is under a legal obligation to ensure that their contractual partners provide individuals with disabilities with equal opportunities to participate. Thus American schools or universities must take some proactive steps to encourage their overseas program partners and organizations to provide physical and program modifications, auxiliary aids, and other accommodations.  

  • An application or conditional acceptance form could potentially ask about health conditions that may have an impact on the individual’s ability to deal with unfamiliar and dynamic cultural expectations or unexpected social demands or lower hygienic standards, as well as other conditions that may be fairly associated with the demands of international student exchange in a particular country or region. Such questions assist the applicant (and application reviewers) in making a thorough and fair self-evaluation of whether she has, or can acquire, the qualities that the university or exchange program considers necessary for a successful overseas experience in a particular country.

  • On the other hand, many legitimate concerns about a particular student’s health or safety overseas should be addressed after conditional acceptance is extended to avoid making decisions based on stereotypes about what is “safe” or possible for a person with a disability. Forcing applicants to disclose their full medical histories before acceptance acts as a “screening out” procedure in practice, even if the questions appear to be “neutrally” directed to all applicants. Moreover, forcing disclosure at the initial application process discourages the kind of interaction and open discussion about accommodations and program modifications that will enable students with disabilities to successfully participate in overseas exchanges. Students should be encouraged to realistically assess their potential need for assistance or accommodation while studying overseas.

  • There is likely no legal obstacle to sending students home if they have a sufficiently serious crisis abroad (e.g., car accident, complicated reaction to medication, psychotic episode), whether or not they are a person with a pre-existing disability, and whether or not they have disclosed as required on the application. The terms and conditions of the overseas study program may explicitly state something like “student will be sent home in the event of a medical crisis.”

  • For study abroad and overseas exchange programs, the most relevant law for record-keeping purposes is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA applies to virtually all public schools and school districts, and most private and public postsecondary institutions because the law covers those educational agencies and institutions that receive funds through U.S. Department of Education’s programs. “Education records” is broadly defined under FERPA to include records that are: (1) directly related to a student, and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. The form in which the record is kept is irrelevant. Educational institutions or agencies that are subject to FERPA may not disclose the education records of students, or personally identifiable information from education records, without a parent or eligible student’s written consent.  Any student health records maintained by an elementary or secondary school, such as immunization records, as well as any special education records on services provided under the Individuals with Education Act (IDEA) are included as “education records” under FERPA. 

  • An educational institution may share educational records with its own school officials when such school officials have a legitimate educational interest in educational records, e.g., if the official needs to review the record in order to fulfill a professional responsibility. Disclosure may also be made without prior written consent to the officials of another school, school system, or postsecondary institution where the student seeks or intends to enroll, so this likely covers those overseas institutions where an overseas applicant seeks a placement. There does not appear to be an exception to the need for prior written consent for host families when a student is seeking a home stay as part of his or her international exchange experience, but this would be fairly simple to rectify by obtaining written consent from parents/eligible students for such disclosures.