Students with Disabilities

Dear Students with disabilities, we welcome you to take the next step to expand your horizons and we will work with you to make study abroad experiences inclusive and accessible! Having a disability shouldn’t shy you away from the possibility of participating in a study abroad or away program, either in the U.S. or Abroad. During the 2016-2017 school year, it was estimated that of the US students who studied abroad, 8.5% of them reported some type of disability, and that number keeps growing. The graphic below from Mobility International USA breaks down the different types of disabilities that students reported:


Health Insurance 

Per the Affordable Health Care Act, all people permanently residing in the U.S. must have domestic health insurance, even while they are out of the country. If you don’t have domestic health insurance, you may be charged a fee. You must continue receiving coverage either by UC Ship or a private health care provider. This insurance will cover you only while you are in the U.S., though it is required by federal law to have it even while away from the country.

International Health Insurance

While you will have a domestic health care coverage plan, you will also have an international health care plan. You have the option of receiving the one provided to you by your program provider or seek your own by another third-party provider. All other health care needs not met by the international health care coverage must be paid out of pocket. Your international health care will only cover your health care needs while outside of the U.S..

Types of International Health Insurance Based by Program Provider

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Study Abroad or Away Doesn’t Have to be International: Programs in the U.S. 

The U.S. is a country rich in diversity. Did you know that there are also study abroad or away programs in the U.S. to choose from? Such programs include those designed for all UC Students during the academic year: UCDC, UC Sacramento UC Ecology and Natural Reserves Program, and the UC Intercampus Visitor Program. UCSC offers USA Exchanges at universities in the U.S. There are also UC Summer Away options offered in the U.S. And lastly, there are some Independent Programs in the U.S. as well, including Spanish Studies Abroad in Puerto Rico, IES Abroad Summer Internship in New York City, CIS Abroad in Hawaii, and CIEE Summer Global Internships in Boston San Francisco, and New York. You should definitely check them out! And, if you would like further convincing, feel free to read the article Don’t Study Abroad, Study America

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities to Study Abroad or Away

You, just like all other students, have the right to participate in any study abroad or away program that you are eligible for. But remember- your responsibilities entail thorough communication and research about your accommodation needs while away. You should: 

Thoroughly research the program(s) that you are interested in. Take a look at the country and the particular region’s overall attitude towards your accommodation needs. Take a look at the host institution’s accommodation offerings for your needs as well. Before you make a final decision about a program you want to participate in, be sure that you have considered the place of interests’ attitudes and offerings towards students with disabilities and different abilities. You can find general information by visiting the specific program pages found on the provider’s websites: UCSC Global SeminarsUCSC ExchangesVirtual Global InternshipsUCEAPUCDCOther UC Programs, and Independent Programs

Like all students, you must meet all deadlines. We recommend that students with disabilities start researching study abroad or away programs about one year in advance to the time they would like to participate. Please take a look at the program application deadlines. If you anticipate that you may need a deadline extension for any reason, please communicate that to UCSC Global Learning as soon as possible by sending an email to Please note that if your program is a UCEAP Limited Capacity Program, you want to be an early applicant in order to be considered! In this case, it would be best to submit your application as soon as the application period for the program opens. 

Pay and budget for all student fees and any extra expenses related to your going away. Once you have researched different programs and have decided on one or a couple of them, you should take a look at the program costs that you can find on the program page, as offered by the provider. Next, you should request a financial aid estimate for a projected package for the study abroad or away program, if you receive financial aid. Then, based off of the financial aid estimate you received, you should create a budget sheet that includes anticipated extra costs for your needed accommodations. Doing this process will give you a better understanding of what foreseen costs you will have to pay out of pocket and how you will budget for them. 

Disclose your accommodation needs from the very beginning of your study abroad or away journey. Please don’t feel uncomfortable stating your needs upfront with the UCSC Global Learning Team,  as we are trained in understanding your needs to offer you the support that you seek! In your profile in the Global Learning Portal, you can list any disabilities and accommodation needs. Once you are thinking about applying to a program, you should speak to a Global Learning Advisor to seek extra support. Before applying to a program, you should also reach out to the Disability Resource Center (DRC) Advising Staff and have a conversation with them about your plans to study abroad or away. Once you are accepted into a program, you should continue this conversation with the Global Learning Advisors, DRC Advisors, and the study abroad or away Program Coordinators.  Nobody will know your additional needs if you don’t share them, so please do! 

Who to Communicate with Throughout Your study abroad or away Journey

  • During the application process, you will be working with UCSC Global Learning Staff and the Disability Resource Center (DRC) to communicate your accommodation needs. 
  • Once already placed into a study abroad or away program, you will shift communication to the study abroad or away Program Adviser(s) and Coordinator(s) who will contact you via email. 
  • While on your study abroad or away program, you will be in direct contact with on-site staff. 

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Important Factors to Consider While Researching Programs and Discussion Questions for Advisors and Coordinators

Transportation accessibility

  • What will my airport arrival and departure assistance look like?
  • How will I be expected to navigate while away? 
  • What are the public transportation options available in the place of interest? 
  • Are these public transportation options accommodating to my needs? 
  • What are my alternatives to public transportation while gone? 
  • Are local taxis, Uber, Lyft, or other ride services a safe and reliable option while I’m away? 
  • Does the host institution or program offer transportation services? How will I pay these extra transportation expenses? 
  • Are there any resources that would help fund my transportation needs while away?

Service animals

  • How does this country view service animals?
  • What are the protocols needed to have my service animal come away with me?
  • Can I have my service animal be recognized as one while away?
  • Will my service animal be allowed on the host institution grounds?
  • What are the protocol and paperwork needed to have my service animal recognized as such at the host institution?
  • Will I be guaranteed housing in a place where service animals are accepted, or will I have to find my own housing?
  • How will I get my service animal to adapt to a new environment?


  • Is the medication I need to support myself legal in my study abroad or away destination?
  • What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have this medication taken with me?
  • What do I need to have my doctor or health care provider prescribe me with enough medication to last me for my study abroad or away program?
  • What are my options if I need more of the same medication?
  • Where and how should I pack this medication?

Housing and Meals

  • Will I be placed in a housing situation that will meet my accommodation needs? 
  • Will I be allowed to find my own housing situation? Will I have assistance in searching for housing?
  • If I will be placed with a host family, will they be understanding of my accommodation needs? What can I do if they are not?
  • If I have special dietary needs, how can I request this?

Host Institution 

  • Will the host institution accommodate my needs? 
  • What will the learning experience and learning expectations be like?
  • What are the protocols and paperwork needed to have staff and professors recognize my accommodation needs?
  • Does the host institution have a disability resource center?
  • Are there any organizations or clubs or resources as to where I can find community with my disability, different ability, or accommodation needs?

Counseling and Medical Services

  • Does the health insurance I receive while I’m away cover additional counseling and medical services I may need?
  • How can I continue my therapy sessions while away?
  • Where can I find a local therapist?
  • Where can I find a therapist in my dominant language?
  • What are my options for therapy and medical providers?
  • Does the host institution offer therapy sessions or medical services for their students at special rates? 
  • Do I qualify for these sessions or services?

Costs of additional accommodations and support

  • How will my financial aid packaging and DRC support accommodate these additional costs, or are they expected to be paid out of pocket?
  • Are there additional resources such as aid, grants, or scholarships I should look into to help fund these additional costs? 

The Disability Resource Center (DRC) has many more questions listed out here, specified by particular disability, and accommodation needs while away. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us as you begin your study abroad or away journey. UCSC Global Learning Staff is dedicated to making these opportunities more accessible for all students to participate!

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Study abroad or Away Snapshot Students with Disabilities

  • Follow the Get Started Guide, as listed above!
  • Gather insight into the experience of other students like you who have studied in these places or under these particular programs! Research, connect with a study abroad alumni and reach out to the Disability Resource Center
  • Pick the program in which your needs would be accommodated while meeting your personal, professional, and academic goals!
  • Go on your study abroad or away program, and enjoy!
  • Reach out to on-site staff, the program provider staff,  and UCSC Global Learning staff at any time you are facing issues due to accommodation needs.  
  • Leave a legacy for friends, family, and future generations to follow. 
  • Share your experience with our office! 
  • Join our alumni events and find other post-undergraduate opportunities!

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Student Perspectives 

For other success stories about students with disabilities, take a look at Mobility International, USA.

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UC Santa Cruz Global Learning is dedicated to making our events accessible. Please contact us at to request disability accommodations.