Eastern Michigan University

Medical Disabilities

Medical disabilities are physical conditions that impair students in a major life activity. There are many medical conditions that a student might identify to the Disability Resource Center (DRC), but some examples are:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Spina bifida 
  • Allergies
  • Crohn's Disease 
  • Cancer    
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia     
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lupus
  • Epilepsy
  • Cystic Fibrosis
Students with Medical Disabilities may exhibit or experience the following:
  • Chronic conditions that cause chronic pain and/or fatigue or remit and re-occur
  • Degenerative diseases whose symptoms intensify or change as time passes
  • Digestive disorders that make it necessary to be able to leave the classroom at will
  • Medical condition may lead to mobility issues
  • Disorders that are exacerbated by factors such as stress and diet
Impact of the Environment on the Disability

Students with Medical Disabilities will likely perform best in courses that incorporate the following elements, which may also benefit other students:

  • Notes provided in advance of class
  • Ability for students to use various means of capturing notes (i.e., laptop or audio recording) because handwriting is not always possible or the most efficient way
  • Flexibility with attendance policy and assignment deadlines if the student experiences symptoms from his or her disability. Students may experience cyclical or periodic symptoms and request flexibility some days and not others.
  • Flexible environment where students are supported to take breaks as needed
  • More than one format of assessing students' knowledge of course content: examinations, in-class participation, presentations, homework, papers, projects, etc
  • Classroom and testing environment that minimizes distractions and recognizes that all students process information differently, some requiring more or less time

When the environment and the disability are not compatible, students with Medical Disabilities commonly receive any or all of the following accommodations:

  • Note-taker and/or permission to tape record due to poor concentration or if physical pain makes it difficult for students to take notes
  • Instructor's consideration of flexibility with attendance policy and ability to make up assignments due to the debilitating and/or inconsistent patterns of certain disorders. Contact the DRC for guidelines regarding this accommodation.
  • Ability to take classroom breaks
  • Instructor's consideration of note card use if the disorder affects the student's memory and retrieval
  • Quiet environment for testing if distractions or sensory sensitivities are present
  • Extended test time for those who require more time to process information

Since conditions may be episodic, the DRC encourages the student to present accommodation letters to faculty at the beginning of the semester. If you have questions about how to provide accommodations or regarding the scope of your responsibilities, please contact the DRC.

Sources and Additional Information


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