Disability Type and Accommodations

Information for Faculty, Staff, and Students


In a recent U.S. study, postsecondary institutions reported enrolling 707,000 students with disabilities during the 2008-09 academic years. The U.S. Department of Education states that approximately eleven percent of undergraduate students identify as having a disability. The types of disabilities reported by these students were:

Disability Type Chart


  1. Raue, K., and Lewis, L. (2011). Student With Disabilities at Degree-Granting Postsecondary Institutions (NCES 2011-018). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.  
  2. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2012). Digest of Education Statistics, 2011 (2012-001), Chapter 3.


A disability may or may not affect the participation of a student in a class. 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. With this basic knowledge you will be better prepared to ask students to clarify their needs and to discuss accommodation requests. Examples are listed below.

Learning Disabilities are documented disabilities that may affect reading, processing information, remembering, calculating, and spatial abilities. Examples of accommodations for students who have specific learning disabilities include:

Mobility Impairments may make walking, sitting, bending, carrying, or using fingers, hands or arms difficult or impossible. Mobility impairments result from many causes, including amputation, polio, club foot, scoliosis, spinal cord injury, and cerebral palsy. Typical accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

Health Impairments affect daily living and involve the lungs, kidneys, heart, muscles, liver, intestines, immune systems, and other body parts (e.g., cancer, kidney failure, AIDS). Typical accommodations for students who have health impairments include:

Mental Illness includes mental health and psychiatric disorders that affect daily living. Examples of accommodations for students with these conditions include:

Hearing Impairments may make it difficult or impossible to hear or understand lecturers, access multimedia materials, and participate in discussions. Examples of accommodations for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have an auditory processing disorder, include:

Blindness refers to the disability of students who cannot read printed text, even when enlarged. Typical accommodations include:

Low Vision refers to students who have some usable vision, but cannot read standard-size text, have field deficits (for example, cannot see peripherally or centrally but can see well in other ranges), or other visual impairments. Typical accommodations include:

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can cause students to have difficulty focusing, sustaining attention, and remaining organized. Typical accommodations include:


A short publication, Working Together: Faculty and Students with Disabilities, includes much of the content on this web page and can be adapted for distribution on specific campuses.


* The information provided on this page has been obtained with permission from the University of Washington DO-IT “The Faculty Room” webpage. Special thanks to the University for allowing the reproduction of their material. Certain sections have been revised to reflect UMSL policies and provide updated information from the U.S. Department of Education.