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Disability Information

The Center for Disability & Access (CDA) approves accommodations for students who have conditions that significantly impact major life activities.

Major life activities are defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, sitting, standing, lifting, and mental and emotional processes such as thinking, concentrating, and interacting with others.

Examples of some of the common conditions that may qualify include:

Attention deficit hyperactivity is a neurological disorder that affects how the brain's neural pathways function. The essential feature of ADD/ADHD is a persistent pattern of inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity that is more frequent and severe than is typically observed in people at a comparable level of development.

Often, academic difficulties are related to:

  • Time management, time constraints 
  • Organization 
  • Attention to detail 
  • Distractibility in the classroom 
  • Exam anxiety
  • Sustained attention when reading 
  • Sustained attention and organization when writing 
  • Visual Disabilities 
  • Sustained attention to problem solve when doing math 
  • Goal confusion

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. They include autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger's syndrome.

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Difficulty with expressive and receptive communication
  • Problems in regulating emotions
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Repetitive and obsessive behaviors

There are two categories of visual disabilities: blindness and low vision. Only about 10% of people diagnosed as visually impaired are totally blind. The remainder may be able to discern light, colors, or shapes. A person who is blind usually has adapted in individual ways to compensate for the lack of vision. Low vision can vary greatly due to individual situations.  Limitations can be the result of constricted peripheral vision, progressive loss of vision, and fluctuation of visual acuity.

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Mobility around campus and in the classroom
  • Taking notes in class
  • Ability to see classroom visual aids, writing on chalkboard, etc.
  • Reading

Chronic illness include, but are not limited to, the respiratory, immunological, neurological and circulatory systems. There can be several different impairments and they can vary significantly in their effects and symptoms. These conditions can vary in severity and length of time, and can be unstable.

Examples of chronic medical conditions include:

  • Cancer 
  • Chemical dependency 
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome 
  • Diabetes 
  • Epilepsy/seizure disorder 
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 
  • Multiple chemical sensitivities 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Muscular dystrophy 
  • Renal disease/failure

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Mobility around campus and in the classroom 
  • Taking notes in class 
  • Concentration/attention 
  • Time management 
  • Anxiety

A common term used is hearing impaired. Deaf people have the same interests, abilities, and ambitions as those who are not deaf.  However, they may face communication problems when interacting with non-deaf individuals.  Many deaf people who were born deaf use American Sign Language and not spoken English.  Deaf individuals often identify with other people of similar upbringing and have their own values. People who became deaf later in life may call themselves deaf or hard-of-hearing based on the degree of hearing loss they experience.

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Listening to and understanding lecture information
  • Taking notes in class
  • Working effectively in group projects or class discussions

Learning disabilities are a group of disorders in which an individual's ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations is impaired.

Academic difficulties can include: 

  • Basic reading and comprehension
  • Mathematical calculation and problem solving
  • Written expression
  • Spelling, punctuation, grammar
  • Oral expression
  • Listening skills
  • Cognitive processing affecting memory, processing speed, visual or auditory processing, comprehension, knowledge, and abstract reasoning

Mobility impairments range in severity from limitations on stamina to paralysis. These conditions can be caused by conditions present at birth or the result of illness or physical injury. Students with mobility limitations may use a wheelchair, have difficulty walking, and/or have endurance problems.

Examples of mobility impairments include:

  • Amputation
  • Arthritis
  • Back disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy/seizure disorder
  • Neuromuscular disorder
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Academic difficulties can include:
  • Mobility around campus and in the classroom
  • Taking notes in class
  • Seating location in classroom
  • Communication

Psychiatric disorders may not be apparent, but they can have a dramatic impact on interpersonal and school behavior that affects the learning process. These disorders cover a wide range of conditions that may be chronic or reoccurring. With appropriate treatment many disorders can be effectively controlled. Treatment, which often combines medications and psychotherapy, may effectively stop acute symptoms or halt the downward spiral in individuals diagnosed with depressive disorders. Additional limitations may also occur as the result of prescribed medication.

Examples of some psychiatric disabilities include:

  • Major depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Severe anxiety disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance-related disorders

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Concentration
  • Cognitive (short term memory difficulties)
  • Distractibility
  • Time management
  • Impulsiveness
  • Fluctuating stamina causing class absences
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of fear and anxiety about exams

Traumatic head injury or traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an insult to the brain caused by an external physical force or by internal damage such as anoxia (lack of oxygen) or tumor. It is not a degenerative or congenital condition. It may produce diminished or altered state of consciousness, which results in impairment of cognitive abilities and physical functioning. These impairments may be either temporary or permanent and cause partial or total functional disability or psychosocial maladjustment. There are two basic typed of head injury: open head injury caused by penetrating objects, and closed head injury caused by a rapid movement of the head during which the brain is whipped back and forth, bouncing off the inside of the skull.

Academic difficulties can include:

  • Cognitive processing
  • Short or long term memory
  • Processing speed
  • Physical limitations such as walking, writing, speaking
  • Social and behavioral limitations that affect communication in the classroom

Other disabilities that can affect a student's ability to function successfully in the academic setting can include:

  • Cardiac conditions
  • HIV or AIDS
  • Severe allergies or respiratory conditions
  • Chronic back pain
  • Active sickle cell anemia
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Repetitive strain injuries


Academic limitations can vary with disability type and severity. Not all conditions will be covered by the ADA, and some may not require academic accommodations.

Last Updated: 6/27/24