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Health/Systemic Disorders

Health and Systemic disabilities affect one or more of the human body's systems (circulatory, immunological, neurological, and respiratory). Effects and symptoms vary greatly. Health and Systemic disorders may not be immediately apparent or evident to others. Students may exhibit limited amounts of energy that can result in difficulties sitting, standing, and walking for long periods of time. Here are some brief descriptions of the more common health and systemic disorders:

  • Cancer: A malignant growth that can affect any part of one's body. Treatment is time-consuming, painful, and may cause permanent disabilities.
  • Chemical Dependency: This is classified as a disability when an individual is currently not using drugs or alcohol, and has formal documentation that they have received professional treatment for their addiction.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: An autoimmune disorder causing loss of appetite, fatigue, and depression. Physical and emotional stress may aversely affect an individual who is diagnosed with this condition.
  • Diabetes Mellitus: This condition results in the inability for one's body to regulate blood sugar levels. Diabetes is treated through strict dieting and may also require insulin injections. Symptoms of confusion, sudden personality changes, or loss of consciousness may occur during a diabetic reaction. Vision loss, cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, or the amputation of limbs often occurs in those with serious cases of diabetes.
  • Epilepsy: Those suffering from this disorder experience a loss of consciousness due to episodes with seizures. Seizures are treated and controlled with prescribed medications, and do not usually require medical emergency attention.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): This is the virus that is thought to cause AIDS, which inhibits one's body from fighting off infection and illness. Individuals who are HIV Positive are often times stigmatized by society.
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS): A neurological condition causing a variety of symptoms such as numbness, vision impairments, loss of strength, and tremors. The intensity of these symptoms can vary greatly day to day. Extreme temperatures are also known to affect the condition of those with MS.
  • Renal disease/failure: Renal disease often results in loss of bladder control, excessive fatigue, pain, and toxic reactions that may cause cognitive difficulties. Those with extreme cases must be on dialysis, which means they must adhere to a strict schedule of diet and fluid intake restrictions.


It is your legal responsibility to provide the student anonymity from the other students (e.g., avoid pointing out the student or explicitly mentioning their accommodation need to the class).

The physical condition of those with systemic disabilities is unstable, at any time their health conditions can change.

Instructional Strategies

Include a statement in your course syllabus regarding accommodation issues for students with disabilities. See the Suggested Disability Statement for course syllabi.

Depending upon the condition of the individual, students with systemic disabilities would benefit from other instructional strategies that were listed for the other areas of disability.

Common Accommodations

The following list includes examples of accommodations that are commonly used by students with a systemic disability. Not all students with a systemic disability are eligible to receive all of following listed accommodations, nor are they limited to those listed when receiving accommodations. Eligibility for receiving any kind of accommodation depends upon factors specific to the nature of the student's disability and the nature of the course in which the accommodations are to be used. The accommodations included on the Student Accommodation Letters are approved by Disability Services and are considered to be both appropriate and required for that particular student.

  • Extended Time on Exams and Quizzes
  • Reduced Distraction Environment (exams)
  • Tape Record Lectures
  • Note Taking Assistance


Main Campus Building Room E108

300 The Fenway
Boston, MA 02115


For more information regarding Disability Services, please contact:

Timothy Rogers
Director of Disability Services

Erin Glover
Coordinator, Disability Services

For appointments, call 617-521-2474.