A Practical Guide to Teaching English Abroad

Frank and Friendly Advice written by a Retired Teacher-Trainer, Experienced EFL Teacher
& Former Peace Corps Volunteer Living & Working Abroad since 1989

What if I am physically challenged?
Can I still get a job
Teaching English Overseas?

Will it be a problem?

It may be a problem - it depends on what your personal challenge/issue is.  Much of the world is not physically-challenged friendly.

Physical Problems

Sidewalks are often uneven, may have large holes in them, or sometimes don't even exist.  Elevators are a happy invention of the developed world. Classes or schools can be on the fifth floor of a building with uneven and steep stairs. 

I taught at a college in Korea in 1993-4 where I had to leave a classroom on the fifth floor of one building, go outside, walk up a hill, go into another building and back up to a fifth or sixth floor -  all in the ten minutes between the two classes - and no elevators.  I was younger then - and relatively fit - but found myself arriving in class out of breath and covered with sweat.  In the winter - the path between the buildings might be covered with ice - making progress even more difficult.


If you have physical challenges of any sort, be sure to ask about the specific circumstances of any school you may be interested in working at.  While at the same college I wrote about above, the school hired a significantly overweight teacher.  She, needless to say, didn't work out.  Just too much physical strength and agility required.  She hadn't asked about the physical demands of the job and they hadn't mentioned it.  Result?  Unhappy school and unhappy teacher.

Minor or Major Issues

I worked for a few years at a school with an older woman who had had knee replacements.  She often had trouble with the stairs being uneven.  In many places, stairs are not built in a uniform manner, one may be higher or wider than the next.  Stairs may also be slippery, hand rails may not be provided.


I am happy to report that the university where I was working from 2003 to 2005, put in physically-adapted bathrooms on every floor of every building!  Fantastic, but no elevator to get up to the fifth floor (or any other floor than the first) to use them!  Progress is being made, but in a rather uneven fashion.  Some day - they will have elevators.

Getting About

Cities in the developing world can be particularly problematic.  Buses jolt about, don't come to full stops to pick up or discharge passengers - it is a tough place if you can't move quickly.

I don't mean to be discouraging - but do look for more developed countries - or places where everything is on one floor.


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