How to Study Abroad With a Disability in Germany

How to study abroad with a disability in Germany

Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity for students to push their limits and live outside their comfort zone. While it is definitely a challenge to live abroad and experience new cultures, living abroad with a disability is even more difficult. Traveling anywhere can be a huge struggle for anyone with a seen or unseen disability, but with extensive planning and a drive to try something new, it can be just as fun and meaningful. If you have questions about how to study abroad with a disability in Germany, Dreams Abroad is here to help.

Luckily, Germany is excellent at creating spaces that are accessible to people with disabilities. Modern laws and up-to-date public transportation systems make it easy for people with disabilities to live “barrier-free” lives in Germany. Even the European Union (EU) is making strides to improve themselves in this area. As with any city or town, there may be certain challenges that are difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Creating backups and researching ahead of time will allow you to navigate the country more easily and save yourself time and energy.

What is a disability?

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) establishes that a “disability” limits an individual’s “major life activities” because of a “physical or mental impairment.” Similarly, The Court of Justice of the European Union (EU) defines disability as ”an impairment that is ‘long-term’ and ‘hinders an individual’s access to, participation in, or advancement in employment.”

Disabilities are either seen physically or unseen. Visible disabilities include a person in a wheelchair, a blind person using a special cane, or someone hard-of-hearing using hearing aids. Unseen disabilities include mental health issues like bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia. Unseen disabilities also encompass food allergies, diabetes, asthma, ADHD, and dyslexia. 

Unfortunately, there can be a lot of stigma and negative connotations surrounding disabilities in various cultures around the world. Germany in particular has a dark history with negative attitudes towards people with disabilities. Thankfully, attitudes have changed, and Germany is working to create barrier-free cities to support people with disabilities. This is good news for those who wish to study abroad with a disability in Germany. Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency successfully fought to establish The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG). The AGG “prohibits discrimination on account of disability in everyday activities as well as in working life.” Since this implementation into the law, Germany adapts and continues to provide suitable accommodation services. 

5 Tips on How to Study Abroad With a Disability in Germany

  1. Choose a program that is upfront about their accessibility. If a study abroad program provider is making you dig for details about their accommodations for people with disabilities, that is a red flag. Choose a program that talks about their benefits and how they implement safety measures for people with disabilities proudly and clearly.
  2. Pick a city that has modern capabilities and updates. Sure, Germany has historical sites and old buildings, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely inaccessible. In fact, many major German cities like Berlin or Frankfurt are known for implementing and making adjustments to make locations and attractions more accessible. This is why many students choose to study abroad with a disability in Germany.
  3. Talk to your study abroad advisor. Your university’s study abroad office is available to help. They have years of experience sending students abroad, including students with disabilities. Communicate your concerns to your study abroad advisor and they can help you gather resources on how best to study abroad with a disability in Germany.
  4. Ensure you can easily communicate your needs abroad. Luckily for English speakers, most Germans speak English. It should not be too difficult to find help in English in major German cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, or Munich. 
  5. Talk with study abroad alumni, especially one who knows what it is like to study abroad with a disability in Germany. Chatting with study abroad alumni is helpful for anyone who wants to study abroad. This is especially true whether you are temporarily or permanently disabled. Speaking with someone who has experienced it will ease your nerves, answer your questions, and help you feel more confident about taking on this adventure.

How to study abroad with a disability in Germany

Advice For Living in Germany With a Disability

  • Research disability-related laws in Germany, and find out what your access to healthcare services are while abroad. Tourism for All helps people with disabilities to travel to Germany. Check out Germany’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency before you study abroad with a disability in Germany.
  • Look into the public transportation systems to make sure they are accessible. This is crucial, because you need to know how to travel and get around a city independently and safely. 
  • Create backup plans to take care of yourself. Establish a Plan B if something goes wrong. This includes refilling medications and prescriptions before you arrive. Making this backup plan will help put you at ease before you study abroad with a disability in Germany.
  • Understand the cultural attitudes towards people with disabilities in Germany. The attitudes towards people with disabilities has drastically changed in Germany since the previous century. Germany’s government has made great strides to support and help people with unseen and seen disabilities navigate their lives in public. 
  • Communicate your needs and define what accessibility means to you. Do you need a ramp in order to enter the building? Will you need to read in braille? Are you almost out of your medication? Speak up and let your needs be known. Advocating for yourself is the best way to receive support.
  • Get a diagnosis before you study abroad with a disability in Germany. It’s going to be more difficult to get an official diagnosis outside of your home country. If you suspect you have a disability but are not yet diagnosed, reach out to your doctor. It is best to work towards treatment plans before you study abroad with a disability in Germany.

How to study abroad with a disability in Germany

Disabilities Don’t Have to Limit You

You have as much of a right as anyone to take up space, explore, travel, and learn. Disabilities do not have to hold you back from attending college and going to school. With proper planning and research, it is possible to study abroad with a disability in Germany.

How to travel abroad and study with a disability

Each semester, more and more students with disabilities are able to study abroad. They learn about different cultures, values, and ways of living while earning their degree abroad. While there are more challenges that students with disabilities have to face when they go abroad, it is still achievable. Now get out there and start planning early. You got this! 

Interested in learning more about preparing for your study abroad experience? Check out this guide to some of the career benefits you can expect to gain during your studies.

19 thoughts on “How to Study Abroad With a Disability in Germany

  1. That first tip is the most important, I think. You should never have to do more than a rudimentary search of a website to find out if the program is accessible.

  2. Great post and information! It is always nice when cities try to make an effort to include those with disabilities.

  3. Well, I will never go to Germany, just because I’ve traveled enough for now, but this sure is useful information if I were disabled.

  4. It is interesting to hear how things are different around the world and what might be accessible or not. This is a useful guide for those studying in Germany.

  5. I like how posiitive this post is. Its true that we have as much right to explore, travel and learn even if we have disabilities. Thank you for the inspiration.

  6. I love the pointer that talks about choosing a program with the level of accessibility that accomodates you. If you study somewhere that makes you uncomfortable, it’s not worth it, in the end, to be honest.

  7. I was under the impression that all of germany is accessible and well equipped to someone with disabilities! Thank you so much for the information, very valuable.

  8. It helps to be aware of issues that may affect you if you have a disability and want to study abroad. I’m sure many will find this helpful.

  9. Thank you for this informative guide on studying abroad with a disability in Germany! The content is well-organized, and the tips are practical and helpful. It’s reassuring to know that studying abroad is possible and accessible for all students. Keep up the great work! 👍🌍

  10. This is a really great and very informative post. This is a helpful post specially to those with disabilities and wanted to study abroad

  11. It sounds like Germany is really geared up with catering for all disabilities. This is a very useful guide.

  12. This was very informative, you really do not realise about a number of things unless you do have a disbility It is lovely to see Germany make this easier

  13. Thanks for sharing this information with us! Very informative. It helps us to be aware of these issues.

  14. It’s interesting to learn about how each place handles and views disabilities. I’m glad there are ways to encourage those individuals to still chase after their dreams.

  15. I completely agree that studying abroad is an incredible way to broaden your horizons and step outside your comfort zone. However, I can only imagine how much harder it must be to navigate a new country with a disability. It’s great to hear that Germany is making strides in creating accessible spaces for everyone and that there are resources out there like Dreams Abroad to help. Extensive planning and research are always key to a successful trip, but it sounds like Germany is definitely a welcoming place for people with disabilities.

  16. I’m sure it does take a little more research to ensure things go as smoothly as possible. And yes, it’s nice that English is pretty much universally spoken in the university.

  17. It’s so inspiring to see how Germany is making great strides in creating accessible spaces for people with disabilities. Studying abroad with a disability may have its challenges, but with proper planning and research, it can be a rewarding and meaningful experience.

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