Students with
Medical Impairments

at Florida Atlantic University

An Informational Brochure from the
Office for Students with Disabilities
Division of Student Affairs



A medical impairment is defined as a health-related condition that may affect the respiratory, neurological, circulatory or immune systems of the body. The symptoms associated with these conditions are often unpredictable and may be episodic.


Recognizing medical impairments may be difficult because many medical conditions are “hidden.” The primary diagnosis may be accompanied by secondary impairments in mobility, vision, hearing, speech or coordination depending on the nature and/or progression of the condition. To be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, a medical impairment must substantially limit with a major life activity.


Included in this brochure are a sampling of medical conditions and the academic accommodations which may be used to assist students with medical impairments and their resulting physical limitations.



Autoimmune illnesses are chronic and can be progressive diseases. The body can mistakenly see parts of itself as foreign agents and turn upon itself to destroy the “foreign” matter. Autoimmune illnesses include, but are not limited to, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and lupus. Students may experience flare-ups, side effects of medication, or hospitalization.


It is possible for the student to be mobile in the afternoon hours, but be unable to attend morning classes due to pain. It is also possible that a student will not be able to take a test at her or his scheduled time and will need to reschedule.



Blood serum disorders include hemophilia, sickle-cell anemia, and HIV/AIDS. Students with sickle cell anemia may suffer from eye disease, heart and lung problems, and acute abdominal pains because vital organs are affected. Limbs or joints may also be affected. Although manifestations of HIV or AIDS vary, extreme fatigue is a common symptom. Blood serum disorders can be characterized by severe crisis periods with extreme pain and other complications which may necessitate hospitalization or absence from class.



Students with cancer may experience visual problems, lack of balance and coordination, joint pain, backaches, headaches, abdominal pain, lethargy, drowsiness, difficulty breathing and swallowing, weakness, bleeding or anemia. The primary treatments for cancer can cause additional effects such as violent nausea, drowsiness and fatigue, thus affecting attendance and/or academic functioning. Medical treatment may also result in amputation, paralysis, sensory deficits and language/memory problems.

The primary treatments for cancer can cause additional effects such as violent nausea, drowsiness and fatigue, thus affecting attendance and/or academic functioning. Medical treatment may result in amputation, paralysis, sensory deficits and language/memory problems.



Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a disease affecting the cells lining the pancreas, small intestines, sweat glands, and lungs. CF’s respiratory symptoms are chronic and eventually lead to fatal lung infections. Students with CF may experience hacking coughs in class. The coughing should not be stifled. Allow students with CF to excuse themselves during coughing spasms. Because of digestive symptoms, some students suffer from malnutrition. During long class sessions, allow students with CF to eat a snack in class.



Epilepsy or seizure disorder is one of the most common neurological disorders. A majority of epileptic seizures are controlled with drug therapy. Side effects of epilepsy drugs can include blurry or double vision, fatigue, sleepiness, unsteadiness, stomach upset and tremors.


Seizures can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and range from convulsions and loss of consciousness to some that are not always recognized as seizures: blank staring, lip smacking, or jerking movements of arms and legs. If a student experiences a seizure in class and falls to the ground be sure all surrounding objects are removed to avoid endangering the student and call 911.



There are three different kinds of Hepatitis each caused by a separate virus (A,B and C) that infects the liver. Students may experience jaundice, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, nausea, fever, diarrhea, fatigue, and other liver diseases. Chronic symptoms may periodically affect the student’s ability to participate in specific activities and/or class attendance.



Students recovering from drug or alcohol abuse who are in treatment programs to assist their recovery are covered by federal anti-discrimination legislation and are eligible for services for students with disabilities. These students may experience psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or low self-esteem, as well as cognitive deficits such as impaired concentration or short term memory.



To be eligible for academic accommodations at Florida Atlantic University, a student must apply for services from the Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Academic accommodations are determined based on self-report of the disability and effective prior accommodations; observation and interaction with OSD counselor, as well as disability documentation submitted by the student. The documentation must be in the form of either a medical report or practitioner’s letter. The diagnosis must be made by a practitioner qualified to make this diagnosis. The documentation must state a student’s specific diagnosis and should also include anticipated effects of the student’s functional limitations within the academic setting as well as suggestions for accommodating the student.

The evaluation must have been conducted within the last two years; however, the OSD reserves the right to make modifications to this time frame.



After a student has submitted an Application for Support Services and appropriate documentation of a disability to the OSD, the student will meet with an OSD counselor for an intake interview. During the intake, the student will be asked to provide information about her or his experience of disability, barriers he or she has encountered, as well as effective and ineffective prior accommodations. Appropriate accommodations are then determined based on an interactive process between the student and OSD counselor.


The student may be eligible for one or more of the following accommodations:

  • Advocacy
  • Professor notification
  • Notetaking assistance
  • Audio recording of classes 
  • Breaks during class (Some students may need short breaks for eating a snack, getting a drink to take medication, or using the restroom.)
  • Additional time to complete assignments
  • Exam adaptations (e.g., extended time to take exams,  distraction-reduced setting, use of computer,  possible  rescheduling  of exam dates due to unexpected episodes of illness)
  • Excused absences (Students who miss a reasonable number of classes due to medical necessity should not be penalized for missed classes as long as assignments and tests are completed in a timely manner)
  • Assistance obtaining a course grade of “I” (incomplete) if appropriate

These accommodations are necessary for ensuring complete access to, and full participation in, the educational process. Academic standards are not to be lowered, nor should there be an alteration in the essential nature of the course or degree requirements.

For more information:

American Cancer Society

American Diabetes Association

American Sickle Cell Anemia Association

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Epilepsy Foundation

HIV/AIDS information



Note: Professors will be notified of the student’s approved accommodations in an OSD Letter of Notification presented by the student. If the student is not registered with the OSD, please refer her or him to the office.

 Last Modified 8/27/15