A non-negligible proportion of undergraduates report having disabilities; specifically, over 11 percent of undergraduates report having a disability. The types of disabilities reported by these students were as follows:

Attention deficit disorder (ADD) 21.8%
Depression 16.9%
Mental, emotional, psychiatric condition 13.9%
Orthopedic or mobility impairment 9.3%
Hearing impairment 7.0 %
Specific learning disability or dyslexia 4.8%
Blindness or visual impairment 3.6%
Health impairment or problem 3.5%
Brain injury 2.4%
Developmental disability 0.9%
Speech or language impairment 0.2%
Other 15.6%

Source: Characteristics and Outcomes of Undergraduates with Disabilities: Web Tables (NCES 2018-432), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2017.


A disability may or may not affect the participation of a student in your class, service, internship, or other activity. In postsecondary settings, students are the best source of information regarding their special needs. They are responsible for disclosing their disabilities and requesting accommodations. To create a welcome environment, include a statement on your class syllabus inviting students who require accommodations to meet with you. For example, "If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contact me as soon as possible."

Flexibility and effective communication between student and instructor are key in approaching accommodations. Although students with similar disabilities may require different accommodations, it is useful for faculty to be aware of typical strategies for working with students who have various types of impairments and who will be engaging in various types of activities. With this basic knowledge you will be better prepared to ask students to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests.

Examples of accommodations can be found in the following two sections of this website, first organized by activity and second organized by disability type.