Medical Disabilities


Medical disabilities may be acute or chronic, visible or invisible, and the type of support needed is as diverse as the individuals seeking assistance.

  • fibromyalgia
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • arthritis
  • kidney disease
  • allergies
  • cardiovascular problems
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • HIV infections
  • epilepsy
  • respiratory and gastro-intestinal disorders
  • Tourette Syndrome

Many of the college students who suffer from these conditions have frequent absences due to the effect of medication, fatigue and pain. Medical conditions can have an impact on an individual’s ability to meet both the cognitive and physical demands of a college program.

Academic Accommodations

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with medical disabilities include:

  • use of memory aids such as formula cards during tests
  • allowance of break periods as needed for rest and taking medication
  • ergonomically designed seating/furnishings
  • adjusted course grades for medical reasons (ie. no penalty for late withdrawals)
  • alternative methods of evaluation
  • access to notetaker and/or scribe
  • provision of extended time for tests and exams. The amount of extra time is determined by the disability support office.
  • allowances for their absences for medical reasons (ie. rescheduling of tests or exams)

Educational Impacts and Strategies

Some medical knowledge can be very helpful in understanding a student’s needs and learning patterns. It is important, however, that faculty approach medical information about a student from an educational standpoint.

A common problem for students with medical disabilities is fatigue and pain. They may have to expend more energy for the routines of daily living and so consideration should be given to their expenditure of energy in the classroom and surrounding environment. Pain and the adverse side effects of medication can be significant detractors to learning.

Some generalized instructional strategies include:

  • locate equipment and supplies in close proximity to the student
  • pre-arrange a cue to refocus attention
  • if the classroom is in a remote location request a change
  • be aware of procedures if there is a medical emergency
  • be prepared to meet with student and disability support office for contingency planning
  • work closely with CSWD to ensure a successful learning experience for the student