Chronic Health Disabilities

Students may have medical conditions that are “invisible” (not easy to see), but cause serious problems in an educational setting. Students can be disabled by chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, arthritis, diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Lyme disease, migraines, cardiac conditions, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, lupus, and seizure disorders. They can also be disabled by medical conditions that cause intense and continual pain, such as repetitive stress injury, post-surgery, and back problems.

Symptoms of all these conditions can be unpredictable and fluctuating. Students with chronic illness or pain may have limited energy and difficulty walking, standing, or sitting for a long time. In addition, they may miss class occasionally due to treatment schedules. Medical conditions, including medication side effects, can cause problems with fatigue and stamina, which adversely affect attention and concentration. Students with some medical conditions may become dizzy and disoriented, or may lack physical stamina. Thus they may be unable to quickly get from one location on campus to another.

Suggested Modifications and Accommodations

  • Students with medical conditions may need extended time on exams due to medication and/or other issues.
  • Students may be late getting to class – allow a few extra minutes at the start of class for students to arrive.
  • Preferential seating may be necessary to meet student needs.
  • In a few situations, students may be unable to use the type of chair provided in a particular classroom. If they are forced to stand during class, students may need podiums on which to rest open books and write.
  • Instructors in courses requiring field trips or internships need to work with their students and the CSD to be sure the students’ needs are met. For example, the students may need assistance with transportation, special seating, or frequent rest-breaks.
  • Some students experience recurrence of a chronic condition requiring bed rest and/or hospitalization. In most situations students are able to make up the incomplete work, but they may need extra time with some assignments. Students are encouraged to work with instructors to establish appropriate deadlines.