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Finding Wheelchair Accessible Summer Travel Programs for Students

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Finding a summer travel or study abroad program can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging for students who use a wheelchair some or all of the time. As a Managing Director of a study abroad program, I work very hard to make sure we do whatever we can to accommodate any students whose hearts are set on participating in our programs. Sometimes it’s not feasible; for example, when the elements of the program itself require hiking or walking long distances on trails. But whenever we can provide access, we do!

It can be difficult even to find wheelchair accessible facilities in the U.S., but traveling abroad provides special challenges. Everything from buildings with elevators to fieldwork components can be tricky. If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible summer program, you might be finding the search challenging.

With the help of Lauren Ofman, the creator of the free ASL Intro Course, I have compiled a list of programs that have wheelchair accessible options available. This accessibility is self-reported by the organizations listed, so I would encourage you to contact any program here if you are interested to make sure they can accommodate you.

  • Institute for Study Abroad, Butler University program at the University of Stirling. A program representative says, “The campus is modern and completely accessible, and the two-term program allows the flexibility of studying abroad for either four or eight weeks.”
  • EF Tours offers several abroad programs that can accommodate students who use a wheelchair, according to a program representative.
  • SOL Education Abroad can accommodate students in wheelchairs at all four of their program locations, according to a program representative.
  • Loop Abroad’s Veterinary Service: South Africa program is a wheelchair-accessible two-week summer program focused on African animals and veterinary medicine, including a safari to Kruger National Park.
  • CISabroad can accommodate limited mobility at its Barcelona programs: Summer in Barcelona, Summer @ UAB, and Intern in Barcelona.
  • Another Barcelona option is the Barcelona Study Abroad Experience, which has served several students with limited mobility in the past. A program representative says, “While some patience with medieval buildings and small elevators is required, it’s doable!”
  • If you like the idea of a program in Berlin, IES Abroad Berlin is wheelchair accessible.
  • Academic Programs International has wheelchair accessible programs in England and Ireland.

Are these the only wheelchair-accessible study abroad and student travel programs out there? Of course not! If you find a program that’s a perfect fit for you, call them up to see if it’s accessible or if accommodations can be made.

If you’re looking for a wheelchair accessible program, I’m sure you know the challenges of confirming access better than I do. But if it’s your first time communicating with a program about your needs, I have a few suggestions.

Do not expect the program representative to understand exactly what you need in terms of access. They may think a few stairs in the building, climbing in and out of vehicles, narrow bathrooms, or showers that require stepping into a bathtub will work for you, so if they won’t, be sure to let them know. You should specify whether you use an electric wheelchair, the width of the chair, and whether or not you are able to walk short distances if necessary. The more information you can give and the more detailed questions you ask, the better you will be able to ensure that you find the right fit.

If you know of another wheelchair accessible student travel or study abroad program that isn’t included here, please add it in a comment so others can benefit.


Getty image by  Yuran-78.

Originally published: March 11, 2018
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