While it is impossible to list all disabilities, the same non-discriminatory policies of access and accommodation apply to any disability that interferes with academic life. These disabilities, whether they are visible or not, may necessitate an administrative or academic adjustment in order to accommodate the individual.
Some disabling conditions that may affect students include, but are not limited to, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, multiple chemical sensitivities, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, traumatic brain injury, and Tourette's Syndrome. Symptoms associated with these conditions, such as limited mobility or impaired vision, and the types of intervention required for students, may resemble those covered elsewhere for other disabilities. It is essential for faculty to touch base with students with disabilities to identify their particular disability and to discuss both its manifestations and the necessary accommodations for the students' success in the classroom. Below are brief descriptions of some of the more prevalent disabilities among students, as well as recommended accommodations. Accommodations listed in the "General Procedures" section may also apply.
HIV/AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
HIV/AIDS destroys the body's immune system and leaves the person vulnerable to infections and cancers that can usually be fought off when the immune system is in working order. Although effects of HIV/AIDS are varied, extreme fatigue is a common symptom. Due to the variability in manifestations of this condition, classroom accommodations will likewise vary. Please refer to applicable sections on specific disabilities to accommodate students with HIV/AIDS. Remember that strict confidentiality is a must because of the intense social stigma surrounding this condition.
Cancer can occur in almost any organ system of the body, thus, making its disabling effects greatly variable from one person to another. Some people experience visual problems, lack of balance and coordination, joint pains, backaches, headaches, abdominal pains, drowsiness, lethargy, difficulty in breathing and swallowing, weakness, bleeding, or anemia. Furthermore, the treatments for cancer, namely radiation, chemotherapy, and surgery, may cause additional symptoms. These include violent nausea, drowsiness, fatigue, paralysis, sensory deficits, and language and memory problems. For classroom accommodations, please refer to applicable sections on specific disabilities.
Cerebral Palsy is caused by an injury to the brain, which may have occurred before, during, or shortly after birth. The injury results in disorders of posture or movement. The effects of cerebral palsy vary from mild to severe. In some people, the condition is barely noticeable, and in others, there may be significant limitations. Manifestations may include involuntary muscle contractions, rigidity, spasms, poor balance, or poor spatial relations. Visual, auditory, speech, hand function, and mobility problems might also occur, as well as convulsive disorders. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to the sections on visual impairments, speech impairments, mobility or medical disabilities, and manual disabilities.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Students with Traumatic Brain Injury often exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: short-term memory problems, serious attention deficits, auditory dysfunction, cognitive deficits, behavioral problems, problems of judgment, and serious anxiety attacks. For classroom accommodations, refer to the sections on learning disabilities and seizure disorders.
Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive disease of the central nervous system that is characterized by a decline of muscle control. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and may include blurred vision, legal blindness, tremors, weakness or numbness in the limbs, unsteady gait, paralysis, slurred speech, mood swings, or attention deficits. Onset is usually between the ages of 20 and 40 so it is likely that students with Multiple Sclerosis are adjusting to a newly diagnosed condition.
The course of Multiple Sclerosis is highly unpredictable and individual. Periodic remissions are common and may last from a few days to several months, as the disease continues to progress. As a result, mood swings may vary from euphoria to depression. Striking inconsistencies in performance are not unusual.
For appropriate classroom accommodations for students with Multiple Sclerosis, refer to the sections on visual impairments, speech impairments, mobility or medical disabilities, and manual disabilities.
Muscular Dystrophy refers to a group of hereditary, progressive disorders that most often occur in young people and produce a degeneration of voluntary muscles of the trunk and lower extremities. The atrophy of the muscles results in chronic weakness and fatigue and may cause respiratory or cardiac problems. Walking, if possible, is slow and appears uncoordinated. Manipulation of materials in class may be difficult. For classroom accommodations, refer to the section on mobility or medical disabilities and manual disabilities.
Many students have chronic breathing problems, the most common of which are bronchial asthma and emphysema. Respiratory problems are characterized by attacks of shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. These attacks can be triggered by either mental or physical stress. Fatigue and difficulty climbing stairs may also be major problems for these students. Frequent absence from class and hospitalization may occur when prescribed medications fail to relieve symptoms. For appropriate classroom accommodations, refer to the section on mobility or medical disabilities.
Students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders are sometimes reluctant to divulge their conditions because they fear being misunderstood or stigmatized. Misconceptions about these disorders, that they are forms of mental illness, contagious, or untreatable, for example, have arisen because their ultimate causes remain uncertain. There is evidence, however, that hereditary factors may be involved and that brain injuries and tumors, occurring at any age, may give rise to seizures. What is certain is that seizures result from imbalances in the electrical activity of the brain.
In the event of a seizure during lecture, try to remain calm. A seizure cannot be stopped once it has started. Do not restrain the person, but rather, clear the immediate area of objects that may injure the individual. A rolled up coat or other garment should be placed beneath the person's head. Afterwards, faculty should deal forthrightly with the concerns of the class in an effort to forestall whatever negative attitudes may develop towards the student who had a seizure.
For classroom accommodations for students with seizure disorders, please refer to applicable sections on specific disabilities.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease that reduces the blood supply to vital organs and the oxygen supply to the blood cells, making adequate classroom ventilation an important concern. Since vital organs are affected, the student may suffer from eye disease, heart conditions, lung problems, and acute abdominal pains. At times, limbs or joints may also be affected. The disease is characterized by severe crisis periods with extreme pain, which may necessitate hospitalization or absence from class. Completing academic assignments during these periods may not be possible. Faculty should be receptive to extending deadlines for assignments for these students.
Substance abuse is a condition of physiological and/or psychological dependence on any of a variety of chemicals, including illegal drugs, prescription or over-the-counter drugs, and alcohol. Students who are recovering from abuse of alcohol and/or drugs, or who are in treatment programs to assist their recovery, are covered by federal anti-discrimination legislation and are eligible for services for students with disabilities. These students may experience psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, which may adversely affect their academic performance. For further guidelines and accommodations, please refer to the section on psychological disabilities.
Every effort should be made to accommodate students who have a temporary disability that affects their ability to take part in student life once their documentation is received by DSS. Temporary disabilities may be the result of a variety of situations including broken bones, surgical rehabilitation, sprained ankles, and complicated pregnancies which result in curtailment of activity. Refer to relevant sections of this handbook for suggestions for appropriate accommodation