Considerations for Students with Temporary Medical Conditions

student in wheelchair at campus event, click to enlarge Temporary medical conditions such as injuries, surgeries or acute illnesses are generally not regarded as disabilities. This is because the degree of functional limitation and the duration (generally shorter than 6 months) of such impairments are usually not substantial enough to cause a temporary condition to be considered a disability. Northwestern University does, however, recognize that temporary medical conditions that occur during the school year may adversely affect a student's ability to fully participate in class. Below are strategies and resources that may be beneficial for someone who is temporarily incapacitated.

Getting around campus with a temporary mobility impairment

Students who are utilizing mobility aids such as electric scooters, wheelchairs, canes or crutches are advised to research the most accessible route to get to and from class. For information regarding construction on campus and planning alternate routes, email Facilities Management or call 847-491-4269. Students are expected to use the intercampus shuttle service, which is wheelchair-accessible, or other means of transportation if available, appropriate, and safe. After dark, students with temporary injuries may want to request SafeRide's handicap-accessible van.  Finally, with appropriate verification from a medical professional, students may also be eligible to work through SSD to purchase a temporary parking permit.


Northwestern provides accessible parking on campus. Students requiring the use of accessible parking spaces must have a state-issued parking placard as well as the appropriate Northwestern parking permit. To obtain parking due to a temporary medical condition, students must:

  1. Acquire a temporary handicapped parking permit through their state of residence or from the city of Evanston using this direct link to Evanston's Temporary Disabled Placard page (external site), and
  2. Take their temporary handicapped placard to University Parking (1819 Hinman, 847-491-3456) to obtain a Northwestern parking permit.

Classroom concerns

  • Students needing information regarding a change in their course load should contact their academic advisors and their instructors for guidance on dropping classes and for options regarding continuing and completing course work.
  • Students experiencing temporary impairments due to minor surgery or temporary medical conditions are advised to consult with their individual instructors regarding possible adjustments to their coursework.
  • If students need extended time to take exams and their instructors are willing to allow extra time but not able to provide space to do so, they may use this direct link to our office email address or call 847-467-5530 to see if space is available for students with temporary conditions to take exams at the Services for Students with Disabilities Office.

General tips for students with temporary conditions that affect their ability to write

  • Students can ask fellow classmates to take notes or obtain copies of notes.
  • Students can ask the instructor and/or Teaching Assistant for suggestions regarding note-taking and testing.
  • If writing is significantly impaired to the point where it affects out-of-class assignments, the use of a speech-to-text software program (Dragon Naturally Speaking or MacSpeech Dictate) is appropriate.

Proof of temporary medical condition or injury

Students should ask their physicians or medical providers what to expect regarding their conditions relating to severity, impact on their mobility, and ability to care for themselves as well as the impact on their ability to attend classes and keep up with their academic workloads. Students must obtain a dated letter on letterhead stationary from their physicians or medical providers that provides information about their conditions or injuries. Information about the duration and limitations of their conditions should be included. Students may need to distribute copies of this letter to various campus staff (e.g., professors, advisors, University Housing, Services for Students with Disabilities, Residence Life, etc.). If students work through Services for Students with Disabilities, they need to fill out our online application for services.