Many students have conditions which are chronic in nature, such as heart problems, diabetes, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. These conditions rise to the level of a disability when they substantially limit one or more major life activities.
If a student approaches you requesting accommodations based upon a chronic health condition, you should request that the student provide you with a letter from Student Disability Services. SDS will review the relevant medical reports and make recommendations for reasonable accommodations based upon the impact of the disability.
On occasion, a health condition, along with medications and medical appointments, may cause the student to miss some classes. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires us to grant “reasonable accommodations” to persons with disabilities. Among these are flexibility in terms of class attendance. However, these accommodations are not unlimited and the student must bear responsibility for notification of absences and for make-up work and tests. It must be made clear that if a disability causes absences beyond what is educationally practical, then completion of a given course in that semester may not be possible. In that case, a withdrawal from the course may be appropriate.
Tips for Positive Communication
- It is the student’s responsibility to inform faculty and staff members of the special accommodation needs that they require. It is strongly advised that faculty members make the initial overture at the first class meeting to encourage students with disabilities to talk with them.
- Variations in the student’s performance caused by medication may present problems that require appropriate modifications.
- The academic support services and testing and other accommodations offered to other students with disabilities may be appropriate to students with chronic health disorders. However, before any accommodations are granted, ask the student to present you with a letter from SDS. The letter will outline what accommodations or modifications would be appropriate.
- If reasonable and appropriate, some flexibility in terms of class attendance may be necessary. However, if absences get to the point beyond what is educationally practical, it may be necessary to ask for a Leave of Absence from the Dean of Students Office.