Q&A: How Can a Medical Condition Affect My Online Education?

Answer: Most online schools offer the same services as traditional schools. Among these services there is often a Disability office or department.

It's the student's responsibility to provide any documentation and proof of medical, emotional or learning disability. Acceptable proof usually comes from a medical doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, students transfer from one school to another school. Although you may have received special accommodations at your previous school, you will most likely need to have original or updated documentation for the new school.

The Disability department reviews your information and determines whether you need special accommodations and/or if they are able to meet your needs. It's this department's responsibility to assist all students who have an established and/or documented disability. The department works with the student to develop needed accommodations and then communicates with other college staff -- instructors, tutors, etc. -- regarding any accommodations. The accommodations may be ongoing (meaning the same for every class) or as needed, dependent on the disability. Some examples include:

  • Modified assignments
  • Extended time for quizzes or assignments
  • Additional resources
  • A staff or peer tutor (to further explain content)
  • Additional time to complete the class

Again, the above are examples. Accommodations are individually based, but realistic for the student and the teachers. Students who receive disability services are still expected to uphold the same school policies and follow school procedures. For example, let's say your assignment due dates are extended one week. After your assignment due date, the late policy would apply.

Some online schools have group assignments. For a student with accommodations (that includes extended due dates) this can be tricky. Some schools offer students an alternative assignment, and others do not. Either way, schools may accept individuals with disabilities and give them the same opportunities to learn as other students. Contact the schools you are interested in and ask what accommodations they can offer.

Dr. Beverley BrowningDr. Beverly A. Browning (Dr. Bev) has been a higher education adjunct faculty member for over 25 years. She has taught in the classroom and online for multiple colleges and universities including the University of Phoenix, Spring Arbor College, Baker College of Flint, Mott Community College, and Rio Salado College. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan, Spring Arbor College and Mott Community College. She is currently an online instructor for ed2go.com (Cengage Learning). In addition to founding and directing the Grant Writing Training Foundation, Dr. Bev is also Vice President of Grants Professional Services for eCivis, Inc. She is the author over over 37 grant-related publications and a frequent keynote speaker and workshop presenter for national and regional conferences. Dr. Bev is a product of lifelong learning and an advocate for online teaching and learning!