International education is an exciting prospect for students. It opens the opportunity to get a quality education, travel the world, experience a new culture and lifestyle, and diversify your friend circle. You can explore a lucrative career overseas and settle there. The sheer idea brings a mix of positive feelings like joy, enthusiasm, and anticipation.

But things are different for a student with different abilities because the thought of adjusting to entirely new surroundings can be daunting. Moreover, you may face apprehension regarding being accepted to international universities and handling the complexities of moving overseas. Luckily, it is possible to manage everything despite your special needs. We have a comprehensive guide for differently-abled students looking to study at a university abroad.


The most obvious concern would be whether you can study abroad with your special needs. The answer is yes, and the chances are good because the statistics are encouraging. The number of international students with different abilities increases every year because of the improvements in accessibility and support. You may actually have better rights, facilities, and provisions abroad, making it even easier than pursuing higher education in your home country. But you need to invest in more research, take extra precautions, and make additional arrangements to make the journey smooth.


Now that you know it is absolutely possible to study abroad as an international student with a different ability, you must understand how to go about it. The process is quite similar to that for any other student, but you may have to go the extra mile. Let us explain the stages of the process.

Research your options – Like any other international student, you must do your due diligence researching the potential destinations, institutions, and programmes. Check factors like modules, teaching, and assessment methodologies, and graduate careers. You can go through the disability services of the university website to narrow down your search. The ones with detailed different ability pages will have measures to support students with special needs. Look for details like disability-friendly infrastructure and resources. Also, research how these countries treat differently able individuals to prepare for cultural differences you might encounter. You can also get a fair idea of the expectations by checking the reviews of students like yourself.

Go ahead with the application – You can go ahead with the application process after finding a university and location matching your needs and interests. Most university applications give you a choice to declare any disabilities, impairments, and conditions. You should be transparent and share information about your special needs. You need not worry about bias during the admission process because your different ability status hardly matters if you are meritorious.

Accept an offer – Communication is crucial once you accept a university offer. Connect with the university’s different abilities services and explain your condition. You will have to fill out some forms and provide details of any support you may need. The university will also require medical proof of your disability, so arrange it from your doctor on time. You can also contact your lecturers and explain your learning needs to ensure your situation does not cause academic disadvantage. Remember that you will have to communicate with the right people to get the assistance you need. So be vocal and ask for help.

Student visas and medical insurance – You will require a student visa to study abroad like any other international student. But student visa requires enrolling in a full-time study programme. However, you may get it even with a part-time programme or a reduced course due to your special needs. So do your due diligence and go ahead with the application.  You may even get a visa for a family member or friend if you require a caregiver to help you with personal care. The coverage and cost of the medical insurance policy for students with different abilities depending on their condition.

Travelling abroad – You may consider buying a compact version of your mobility equipment to ease travel and adaptation abroad. Attach handling instructions to cover the damage risk in transit. Carry your medical documentation to get adequate support across your journey by furnishing proof of disability to the airline. Also, make arrangements for local transit once you reach your destination. Research public transport facilities available in the city. You may consider driving, but get a differently able cover with the insurance policy and a disabled parking permit as well.

Take it easy after landing – After completing the basics, you are all set to fly to your destination and fulfil your academic goals. But you need not go too fast to make new friends, ace the academics, join college societies, and explore local tourist hotspots. Give yourself adequate time to adjust to the new surroundings. You can talk to fellow students with disabilities to get valuable insights into navigating student life abroad.

Finding accommodation – Finding appropriate accommodation as a student with a different ability may be challenging, but you can start early with good research even before landing. Luckily, most universities run an accommodation office that collaborates with disability services. You can seek their assistance to get dedicated accessible accommodation. They may help you by ensuring modifications of existing accommodation to meet your needs. Living off-campus may not be your best bet because accessible accommodation can cost a fortune. But your university’s accommodation and disability offices can connect you with landlords and agencies. You can look for the option of living with a host family as it is more affordable and welcoming than a rental place.

Considering medical needs – Your medical needs should be on top of your mind because some medications may not be legal and available in your host country. Some locations impose restrictions on medications like painkillers, steroids, stimulants, and sedatives. You cannot travel with them as they can lead to legal issues. Double-check your prescription medication and ensure legality and availability. You may also discuss a legal alternative with your doctor. Also, ensure starting with it well in time so that you are habitual to it before leaving for your studies.


Luckily, you need not worry about running short of choices for studying abroad as a student with special needs. Several countries embrace such individuals and offer valuable support to make them comfortable. Here are some ideal choices to explore:

  • The USA – The US is one of the best countries for international education, and it makes a great destination for students with special needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 recommends that universities make reasonable adjustments for such students.
  • The UK – Universities in the UK have to make their campuses accessible and inclusive for all. They are legally required to provide support services or devices, change rules or practices, and alter or remove physical barriers.
  • Germany – Germany is among the most accessible countries, with Berlin being lauded for making its infrastructure, transportation, and public spaces more accessible.
  • Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are making leaps to ease the life of individuals with special needs. 
  • Australia and New Zealand – All individuals in these countries are protected from discrimination. Further, public amenities and facilities here are accessible to everyone.

Several other international education destinations are making efforts to improve provisions for people with special needs. Students can look forward to choosing a location they wish to explore, regardless of their different abilities and impairments.


Students with different abilities should not worry about coveting additional costs due to their special needs. They can explore a broad range of scholarship programs and financial aid schemes to fulfil their dream. These schemes may vary from country to country and university to university, and you can check websites or ask the authorities about them. Here are some options you may apply for-

US & Canada



You may find special programmes for specific disabilities, while some universities offer them only to the local students. But it is worth researching for options as you may save a hefty sum by securing a scholarship.


Studying aboard can open immense opportunities for students, so even individuals with special needs pursue them. You may need help at some point, but you should not hesitate to ask. Here are a few places where you can get help-

  • University disability office
  • Local disability charities and organizations
  • National disability organizations
  • Fellow students with disabilities
  • Lecturers and programme staff

Some universities even have a buddy system to ensure ease and comfort for students with special needs. You must raise issues when there is a need so that the authorities take adequate measures to resolve them. You can actually pave the way for future students with different abilities so they can navigate the process more easily.

A different ability should not hold you back when it comes to pursuing the dream of studying abroad at a university of your choice. It is absolutely doable, regardless of your health and mobility issues. You only need to be honest and open about your special needs to get the most out of your experience.

If you are considering studying abroad why don’t you discuss your prospects and opportunities with experts at Lurnable’s dedicated study abroad counselling division LurnPathways?

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