Health-Related Disabilities

Health-related disabilities are conditions affecting one or more of the body's systems. These include the respiratory, immunological, neurological, and circulatory systems. There are many kinds of health-related impairments, varying significantly in their effects and symptoms; below are brief descriptions of some of the more common types.

Common Types and Descriptions of Health-Related Disabilities

Cancer
A malignant growth that can affect any part of the body. Treatment can be time-consuming, painful, and sometimes result in permanent disability.
 
Chemical dependency
Considered a disabling condition when it is documented that a person has received treatment for a drug or alcohol addiction and is not currently using. Chemical dependency can cause permanent cognitive impairments and carries with it a great deal of stigma.
 
Diabetes mellitus
Causes a person to lose the ability to regulate blood sugar. People with diabetes often need to follow a strict diet and may require insulin injections. During a diabetic reaction, a person may experience confusion, sudden personality changes, or loss of consciousness. In extreme cases, diabetes can also cause vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, stroke, or necessitate the amputation of limbs.
 
Epilepsy and other seizure disorders
Cause a person to experience a loss of consciousness. Episodes, or seizures, vary from short absence (formerly known as petit mal) seizures to the less common tonic-clonic  (formerly known as grand mal) seizures. Seizures are frequently controlled by medications and are most often not emergency situations.
 
Epstein Barr virus or chronic fatigue syndrome
An autoimmune disorder that causes extreme fatigue, loss of appetite, and depression. Physical or emotional stress may adversely affect a person with this condition.
 
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV+)
Causes AIDS, and inhibits one's ability to ward off illnesses and infections. Symptoms vary greatly. People with HIV or AIDS are often stigmatized.
 
Lyme's disease
A multi-health-related condition that can cause paralysis, fatigue, fever, dermatitis, sleeping problems, memory dysfunction, cognitive difficulties, and depression.
 
Lupus erythematosus
Can cause inflammatory lesions, neurological problems, extreme fatigue, persistent flu-like symptoms, impaired cognitive ability, connective tissue dysfunction, and mobility impairments. Lupus most often affects young women.
 
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
A progressive neurological condition with a variety of symptoms, such as loss of strength, numbness, vision impairments, tremors, and depression. The intensity of MS symptoms can vary. A person can be extremely fatigued one day and very strong the next day. Extreme temperatures can also adversely affect a person with MS.
 
Renal disease or failure
Can result in loss of bladder control, extreme fatigue, pain, and toxic reactions that can cause cognitive difficulties. Some people with renal disease are on dialysis and have to adhere to a rigid schedule.

Some Considerations When Working with Students with Health-Related Disabilities

Students affected by health-related disabilities differ from those with other disabilities because health-related disabilities are often unstable. A person's condition, therefore, varies along with the need for and type of reasonable accommodations.

Common accommodations for students with health related disabilities include:

  • Conveniently located parking
  • Note-takers
  • Extended time to complete a task
  • Modified course or workload
  • Priority registration
  • Exam modifications

Instructional Strategies for Students with Health-Related Disabilities

Health-related disabilities often require instructional strategies similar to those listed for other disabilities. The use of such strategies will depend on how the disability is manifested. If a faculty member would like more information about instructional strategies for students with health-related disabilities, he or she should utilize the direct link to our office email address.