Disability-Specific Resources: Other Functional Disabilities

There are many disabilities that do not necessarily fit into the specific disability categories.  The functional limitations resulting from these diseases and conditions varies and could result from the disease or condition itself or from the medications used to treat the illness.


Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Osteoarthritis is usually caused by normal wear and tear, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder. Other types of arthritis can be caused by uric acid crystals, infections or even an underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus.  Treatments vary depending on the type of arthritis. The main goals of arthritis treatments are to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.

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Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disorder of movement, muscle tone or posture that is caused by an insult to the immature, developing brain, most often before birth.  Signs and symptoms appear during infancy or preschool years. In general, cerebral palsy causes impaired movement associated with exaggerated reflexes, floppiness or rigidity of the limbs and trunk, abnormal posture, involuntary movements, unsteadiness of walking, or some combination of these.  People with cerebral palsy may have difficulty with swallowing and commonly have eye muscle imbalance. People with cerebral palsy may have reduced range of motion at various joints of their bodies due to muscle stiffness.  The effect of cerebral palsy on functional abilities varies greatly. Some people are able to walk while others aren't able to walk. Some people show normal to near normal intellectual function, but others may have intellectual disabilities. Epilepsy, blindness or deafness also may be present.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.  The cause of chronic fatigue syndrome is unknown, although there are many theories — ranging from viral infections to psychological stress. Some experts believe chronic fatigue syndrome might be triggered by a combination of factors.  There's no single test to confirm a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. You may have to undergo a variety of medical tests to rule out other health problems that have similar symptoms. Treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome focuses on symptom relief.

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Environmental Allergies

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS), also known as chemical hypersensitivity, total allergy sydrome, and environmental illness, include many medical conditions that share a common characteristic.  Individuals with MCS become ill from eating, breathing, or absorbing small amounts of widely used "safe" chemicals.  Reactions may be immediate or delayed, severe or mile.  Classroom attendance can be severely affected by this disability, depending on the physical environment of the building in which the class is held.  Some individuals may wear a face mask filter which enables them to function normally in an environment that is toxic to their body systems.


Students with Epilepsy will have likely not have problems in the classroom.  In most cases, seizures will be controlled by medication.  Some medications, however, have powerful side effects which could impact classroom participation.  Some students with epilepsy will have learned to manage seizure activity through adequate rest, proper diet, stress reduction, and regular medication.  Most will be able to participate in sports and lead active lives.  There are some whose seizure activity simply cannot be controlled.


Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.  While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help.

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Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited form of anemia — a condition in which there aren't enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.  Normally, your red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through your blood vessels. In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.  There's no cure for most people with sickle cell anemia. However, treatments can relieve pain and help prevent further problems associated with sickle cell anemia. 

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Lupus, an autoimmune disease, happens when the immune system attacks its tissues, causing inflammation, swelling, pain, and damage. Lupus symptoms include fatigue, joint pain, fever, and a lupus rash.

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Diabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how your body uses blood glucose, commonly called blood sugar. Glucose is vital to your health because it's an important source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. It's also your brain's main source of fuel.

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Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is the number one cause of chronic disability among young adults and may affect the student in a multitude of ways.  Because MS most often occurs between the ages of 20 and 40, the college student with MS is apt to be in the process of adjusting to the new disability.  Depending on the degree to which the MS has progressed, the student's mobility, speech, vision, and emotional state may be affected.  One of the most difficult aspects of MS is that the symptoms have a tendency to come and go, but they continue to progress.  Periods of remission may last from a few days to months in the early stages.  During an exacerbation, the student may appear intoxicated (i.e., slurred speech, staggering, unfocused eyes).  Understanding the fluctuations that may occur in the student's behavior make it easier to understand variations in classroom performance.  The accommodations, if any, will vary from student to student, depending on the functional limitations.

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Muscular Dystrophy

Muscular dystrophy is a group of genetic diseases in which muscle fibers are unusually susceptible to damage. These damaged muscles become progressively weaker. Most people who have muscular dystrophy will eventually need to use a wheelchair.  There are many different kinds of muscular dystrophy. Symptoms of the most common variety begin in childhood, primarily in boys. Other types of muscular dystrophy don't surface until adulthood.  People who have muscular dystrophy may have trouble breathing or swallowing. Their limbs may also draw inward and become fixed in that position — a problem called contracture. Some varieties of the disease can also affect the heart and other organs.  While there is no cure for muscular dystrophy, medications and therapy can slow the course of the disease.

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Students who have had an ostomy (urostomy, colostomy, ileostomy) may be advised not to particpate in violent contact sports or wrestling.  Most permissible restrictions on participation, however, will be the result of causes other than the ostomy itself.  Swimming is permissible for these students. 

Kidney dysfunction

Respiratory disorders

Cardiac conditions

Chronic back pain


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