Accessibility Abroad

If you are a student with a disability(ies), consider how accommodation availability, laws and cultural perceptions around disability may vary across different countries. This page will guide you through disability considerations and resources to participate in an SFU Study Abroad program. We are here to help you navigate these opportunities to study abroad as part of your SFU degree.

Getting Started

  • Start planning 1 to 3 terms in advance to provide enough time for you to request and negotiate appropriate accommodations
  • Research ahead of time and know your rights as a student. Disclose the functional limitations of disability-related condition(s) at your discretion.
  • Reach out to as early as possible to the resources below with questions or concerns regarding accessibility needs abroad.
  • Initiating these discussions is your responsibility

SFU Student Services

Centre for Accessible Learning (CAL)

Register with CAL to discuss your disability related needs and/or if you have a medical condition that poses limitations on your ability to function in certain environments. Disability Access Advisors can discuss how to best approach accessibility options and needs while abroad. 

Study Abroad - International Services for Students (ISS)

Book an advising appointment with a Study Abroad Officer to help you navigate available supports and resources at your host institution.

Program Accessibility

Consider the program, host institution, city, and country, and the types of access and support you may need. For students with (physical or mental) medical conditions, international travel can present complex challenges. The following Accessibility Resource Guide can help with your disability considerations for study abroad. If considering an exchange, review the section below on Host Institution Accessibility and connect with a Study Abroad Officer regarding your proposed program on what resources may be available.

Exchange Program

  • Research and apply for accommodations directly with your host institution.
  • Academic accommodations offered and available supports abroad at host institutions* may be different from SFU. (e.g., no fixed process and/or takes time to navigate process)
  • If your host institution does not have a CAL office equivalent, contact ISS to help inquire about available services

Field School Program

  • Speak with the program's Field School Director for information on specific conditions for the field school of interest.
  • Some SFU field schools take place in international locations where emergency services, and/or mental or physical support services may be limited, or non-existent.


*Host Institution for Exchange Program

If you are planning to go on an exchange, the host institution would be your main point of contact for support resources and accommodations.

ISS has received information from most host institutions on how students with accessibility needs may be supported on exchange, to help you make informed decisions when selecting your destination or are preparing for exchange. Please reach out to the Study Abroad Advisor for your region, if you need support with accessibility information for your prospective host institution.

The disclosure process for host institutions may be different depending on local laws and regulations around disability accommodation and confidentiality. It may be helpful to inquire about this topic in advance through your host institution.

Rights & Responsibilities

SFU does not have oversight on accessibility policy at other institutions. Your rights abroad may differ from your rights within SFU. However, we are happy to work with you to explore how to best approach accessibility options and needs during your Study Abroad experience.

You are responsible for contacting your host institution, as well as SFU’s Centre for Accessible Learning, to discuss disability supports and entitlements during Study Abroad experiences. We invite you to connect with the Centre for Accessible Learning to discuss your personal plans and circumstances as soon as you begin your preparations to study abroad.

Disclosure & You

When studying abroad, host country/institution laws and regulations regarding disclosure of diagnosis will apply. The disclosure process may be different to receive accommodations outside of Canada, and you may be required to disclose a diagnosis, or provide specific types of documentation in order to receive accommodations.

Preparing to Go Abroad

Understanding Cultural Differences

Research the attitudes towards people with disabilities in your host destination and the cultural differences, to prepare for the experience and navigate culture shock.

Consider the types of accommodation, attitudes towards people with disabilities, and level of emphasis placed on accessibility that will vary by location. For example, in some countries, independence is valued very highly, whereas in other countries people may assume that individuals with disabilities would like to receive help.

Be flexible, ask questions, and be willing to navigate cultural differences regarding accessibility.

Preparing for Study Abroad with a Disability

Questions & Considerations

The following Accessibility Abroad Resource Guide was developed by our colleagues in the International Education Office and Access and Support Centre at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario.  Use this as a guide to help prepare you with considerations, tips and resources for travelling with your individual needs. 

Student Experiences

For more personal insights, we encourage you to read or listen to some stories from students with disabilities who have studied abroad:

Continue exploring your options with these next steps:

1) Attend a Study Abroad or Exchange Info Session
2) Research your Options
3) Learn how to Fund Your Study Abroad
4) Speak with a Study Abroad Advisor