Lesson 08: Health

Serving Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course


The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of the issues and strategies related specifically to working with students with HEALTH IMPAIRMENTS.

Questions to reflect upon while reading the content

What challenges might students with HEALTH impairments face in your service area? What accommodations might they require?


There are a range of medical diagnoses and subsequent health problems that can have a TEMPORARY or CHRONIC IMPACT on a student's performance. Common diagnoses include arthritis, cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma, AIDS, and heart disease. The secondary effects of illness and the side effects of medications can have a SIGNIFICANT IMPACT on MEMORY, ATTENTION, STRENGTH, ENDURANCE, and ENERGY LEVELS.

Health problems may interfere with the PHYSICAL SKILLS needed to be successful in computer or writing activities. Individuals with ARTHRITIS, for example, may have DIFFICULTY WRITING due to pain or joint deformities. Students with Multiple Sclerosis may not be able to MANIPULATE small OBJECTS. Prolonged sitting may pose challenges for an individual with chronic pain or back problems. Illness or injury may result in LIMITATIONS in MOBILITY that require the need for a wheelchair or scooter.


FLEXIBILITY plays a key role in supporting the success of students with health impairments, as many HEALTH CONDITIONS by nature are UNPREDICTABLE. Posting program information on the web is one way for a student to acquire important information without the need to be physically present.

Examples of TYPICAL ACCOMMODATIONS for students who have HEALTH impairments include the following:

  • Note takers or scribes
  • Extended exam time or alternative testing arrangements
  • The use of electronic mail or web-based materials
  • An ergonomic workstation with adjustable keyboard trays, monitor risers, glare guards, foot rests, adjustable chairs, and/or antifatigue matting
  • Speech recognition computer input devices, ergonomic keyboards, one-handed keyboards, expanded keyboards, or miniature keyboards


Be aware that when health conditions result in PERMANENT or TEMPORARY MOBILITY problems, accommodations for students with MOBILITY impairments may be appropriate (refer to the email messages titled "Accommodations 7: MOBILITY").

Your FLEXIBILITY and the STUDENT'S efforts to plan, organize, and prioritize, in conjunction with the assistance of the DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE in determining reasonable accommodations, will all play important roles in supporting the success of the STUDENT with HEALTH impairments.

Question for Discussion

After reading the following case study, send an email message to the group that answers the following question:

What accommodations do you anticipate that you might need to make for a student with a health impairment using your services?

Your email SUBJECT line should read: Access 8: HEALTH.


My name is Karen. I'm a third-year math education student with rheumatoid arthritis. When my arthritis is problematic, I have a hard time gripping a pencil to write. I also fatigue very quickly and cannot work for prolonged periods of time.

Access Issues

My arthritis interferes with my ability to type quickly and efficiently and to take handwritten notes. My doctor has recently restricted me from typing and writing for extended periods of time. What accommodations do you think your office or department could offer to assist me in fully accessing your program?

Further Information

You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case studies, and access additional resources at The Conference Room, https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities.

(c) 2004 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at 1-206-685-3648 or doit@u.washington.edu