Study Abroad With Disabilities

Study Abroad With Disabilities

The travel preparation, the move and, last but not least, the study conditions: all of this involves a lot of planning and costs for students – regardless of whether they are impaired or not. However, students with disabilities are quick to shy away from planning to study abroad. Studying abroad is particularly worthwhile for students with disabilities.

On the one hand, it is an added value for every student within the academic career and fulfills the desire to immerse into foreign cultures and explore countries. On the other hand, students with health problems in many study countries enjoy greater support at the university than in Germany.

In many cases, however, it not only requires courage, but also patience and perseverance to deal with the organization and financing options for studying abroad with a disability. In advance, a few steps should be taken into account when preparing.

Organization of a study abroad with a disability

The key to successfully completing a degree abroad with a disability is early planning. A stay abroad should be organized at least ten to twelve months in advance.

If the target country has already been determined, it is advisable to get an overview of the suitable study programs in a study abroad:

  • Semester abroad
  • Summer sessions
  • Language courses
  • Advanced training

Have you found the target country and a suitable study program? Then it is essential for a successful stay abroad to collect and clarify individual questions. For this reason, you should contact the relevant contact person at your home university before you apply to a university abroad. A central point of contact for all country-specific information is the database of the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education.

Homepage of the European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education:

Free advice agencies not only provide information about the university, but in many cases can also establish initial contact with the disability officers at the university of your choice abroad.

An early clarification of open questions is particularly important if a stay abroad is made mandatory by the study regulations of the subject. In many cases, students also benefit from discussions with internationally experienced students with health impairments or experience reports that provide “first-hand” information.

Accommodation while studying abroad with a disability

When choosing an apartment while studying abroad with a disability, it can sometimes take long search times, depending on the place of study. This is the case especially when a barrier-free apartment is being sought and the university of your choice abroad does not provide any accommodation itself. In this case, however, the universities often offer help with finding accommodation or can name other contact persons.

Advice for travel and traffic

For a successful study abroad, the question of mobility must also be considered. For a semester abroad without restricted mobility, it is important to have a good connection to the public transport of the barrier-free local transport, a disability-friendly infrastructure as well as the social connection.

If it is not possible to find an apartment close to the university and no connection to public transport exists or cannot be used, the daily route to the university should be clarified. Additional costs due to impairment, for example for alternative transport options such as your own car or taxi vouchers, can be subsidized. This also includes all additional costs that arise during the outward and return journey by plane, ship or train as a result of the impairment.

Tips for choosing a course

When choosing a course, it is important to ensure that all courses can be attended and that they can be fully attended despite the health impairment. Students with disabilities are usually available from the psychological counseling centers. Corresponding applications for the facilitation of examinations can be submitted to the responsible office if necessary, and aids can be applied for prior to departure.

Costs for studying abroad with a disability

While studying abroad, depending on the country and handicap, high additional costs can arise. On the one hand, there are a small number of additional costs for study-related aids such as a study assistant. Furthermore – depending on the type of impairment – there are costs for mobility aids or technical aids.

On the other hand, due to the impairment, there are additional costs in everyday life that are significantly higher than the additional costs related to the study. These additional costs include, for example, visits to the doctor, psychotherapy and medication, the costs of which are not covered by health insurance companies.

Students with a physical disability

Students who use a wheelchair can apply for student assistants and accompanying offers to compensate for handicaps in everyday university life. This may also include 24-hour assistance that provides support both in everyday life and in everyday university life. Students who use a wheelchair can also apply for the following benefits:

  • Home help
  • Hygiene products
  • physical therapy
  • adapted clothing
  • adapted apartment

Attention: Even at universities whose main buildings often offer barrier-free access and which are therefore advertised as barrier-free, this does not always apply to the ancillary buildings. At most universities in English-speaking countries, students who use wheelchairs are given barrier-free access to lecture rooms and course rooms. This includes the provision of disabled parking spaces, stepless access, elevators and disabled toilets.

Visually impaired or blind students

Depending on the degree of impairment, visually impaired or blind students can request study assistants such as lecturers. For students with a visual impairment or blind students, technical aids such as a notebook with a portable camera and screen reader, a screen reader or printer and scanner can be requested as required. At many universities in English-speaking countries, there are special lending conditions in libraries and the provision of barrier-free documents on the Internet (translation of literature).

Hearing impaired or deaf students

Students whose hearing is impaired can apply for a communication assistant to compensate for disadvantages in everyday university life. In addition, many universities abroad offer hearing-impaired or deaf students with hearing implants the option of coming to lecture rooms with T-loops.

In addition, so-called LectureCaps are sometimes made available to follow up on the lecture. When traveling, the battery charging time of an hearing implant should be observed and it should be checked whether the implant / battery is heat and water resistant.

Financing a study abroad with a disability

In order to cover the general costs of studying abroad, most students with disabilities are usually dependent on their parents and foreign BAföG. The costs and tuition fees that arise in everyday life at the foreign university can thus either be fully or partially covered.

An additional source of funding is needed above all to cover the costs of medical care as well as study assistants, mobility aids, sign language interpreters and other study-related aids.

Long-term care allowance from long-term care insurance

In the case of individual additional costs, it is possible to have these subsidized by the responsible long-term care insurance fund. However, this option is only available for students who are planning to study abroad in an EU or EEA country or Switzerland. As with studying in Germany, you can receive care allowance and care benefits in kind.

In all other countries, the care allowance can only be claimed for a maximum of six weeks. There is also an entitlement to a nurse who usually provides the care in kind for only six weeks during the stay abroad.

Care allowance according to state laws

An important prerequisite for receiving state care and blindness allowance is permanent residence in Germany, whereas the stay abroad is only of a temporary nature. Who is entitled to care allowance is stipulated in the respective state laws.

Grant from the DAAD

Disabled or chronically ill students can apply for a grant through the DAAD for special funds if the stay abroad is based on an Erasmus agreement. For this purpose, students must submit an application form to their home university, which will be forwarded to the DAAD.

In order to submit the application in full, severely disabled and chronically ill students must present a copy of their severely disabled ID. In addition, additional costs due to foreign and disabled people should be calculated and submitted in advance on the basis of Internet research. A grant from the DAAD can only be made if the costs have not already been covered by other bodies. These include regional associations, social welfare offices or health insurance companies.


Students with disabilities can also finance their studies abroad with scholarships. The scholarships are awarded depending on the scholarship provider:

  • Karl and Charlotte Spohn Foundation (scholarship for blind students)
  • University of Cologne: Scholarship for students with disabilities or chronic diseases
  • Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

Many foreign universities in English-speaking countries offer a range of (partial) scholarships for students with disabilities. For a stay in the USA or Canada, hearing-impaired students can apply for the Anders Tjellström Scholarship, for example.

Attention: Auslands-BAföG can only be combined with performance-related scholarships.

Find the right insurance for studying abroad with a disability

It is certainly not one of the most exciting aspects of preparing to study abroad, but getting private health insurance is essential for organizing a study abroad. Choosing the right health insurance has high priority, especially for students with disabilities, as the scope of benefits can vary greatly from policy to policy.

The choice of the right health insurance for studying abroad with a disability should therefore be made at the very beginning so that medical care is guaranteed during the study abroad at the target university in any case.

Reasons for taking out private international health insurance

A prerequisite for the statutory health insurance abroad to pay for medical treatment is an existing social security agreement with Germany.

The German state has a social security agreement with all EU and EEA countries and, for example, with Turkey. As a result, the statutory health insurance in all these countries pays the costs of the services that would have occurred in Germany. Any additional costs that may arise must be borne by the students themselves.

On the other hand, medical costs are not covered if they are incurred in countries with which Germany does not have a social security agreement. The resulting costs must therefore be paid out of pocket. It is therefore always advisable to take out private health insurance for studying abroad with disabilities. Few policies offer adequate health insurance coverage for students with disabilities.

Under certain circumstances, it can make the search easier if students have their ability to travel certified in advance by a doctor. In any case, enough time should be allowed for looking for the right health insurance abroad for studying abroad with a disability, after all, the insurance should be tailored precisely to individual needs.

Guidelines for choosing the right international health insurance

How do you find the best possible insurance policy? There are some guidelines that can help you choose health insurance for studying abroad with a disability. Regardless of the country you choose to study, the following applies: A health insurance abroad covers various additional benefits, such as medically required repatriation.

It is advisable to check carefully in advance which services are covered by the international health insurance. Students with disabilities should pay particular attention to the fact that services are also provided for existing physical impairments if these previous illnesses are the reason for a doctor’s visit abroad.

Students with disabilities should also have their family doctor issue a certificate stating any medication or physiotherapeutic measures that may be required, as well as their current state of health, before they start their stay abroad or take out insurance. It is advisable to translate this proof into the national language of the country of study.

Benefits for students with disabilities while studying abroad

The benefits in kind that are provided by the health insurance company vary from country to country. This means that your own performance claims are always based on the performance catalog prescribed in the country of study. For example, there are differences in medical care in many countries: in some countries, medical practices are being replaced by health centers, or drugs and medical services are only available for cash.

This can lead to students having to pay high additional payments, which, however, are within the normal limits for the country. The statutory health insurances are not obliged to cover these additional payments.

Important note: Students are only considered to be subject to compulsory insurance if they are still enrolled at their home university for the duration of their studies abroad. The permanent place of residence must therefore be in Germany and the study stay abroad must be limited.

Study abroad with a disability within the EU

The statutory health insurance benefits are generally also provided in other European countries. Students with disabilities who are dependent on regular medical services should clarify in advance that medical care is also guaranteed during their studies abroad.

The health insurance company and the treating doctor are the right people to contact in this case.

Study abroad with a disability outside the EU

In countries with which there is no social security agreement that includes health insurance, the statutory health insurance does not usually provide any benefits when studying abroad with a disability.

For students with disabilities who are planning a study-related stay abroad in one of these countries, private health insurance is essential. In some countries, the target universities often provide a specific international health insurance. In this case, students should check carefully whether the insurance covers all the necessary services or whether additional health insurance abroad may be required. For more in-depth advice on the conditions and coverage amounts, students with disabilities should contact the health insurance company of the destination country.

Study Abroad With Disabilities

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