Defining a Disability
Federal law defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of that individual. Examples of major life activities include walking, sitting, standing, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and other similar activities. If a condition substantially limits a student's access to educational opportunity, that condition is considered a disability. A diagnosis of a disability does not, in and of itself, necessitate reasonable accommodations under the ADA or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The following is a list of disabling conditions SMU accommodates and the specific guidelines for documenting that condition:
Chronic Medical/Health Disability
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Temporary Disabling Condition
ADHD: Typical symptoms of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in a college environment include difficulty managing multiple and competing deadlines for long-term projects, following through on goals and intentions, and making good judgments about how to spend one's time. Trouble working within an unstructured environment, completing tests quickly, and focusing during classroom lectures are also markers of ADHD in the college setting. Frustration with achieving expectations can create feelings of depression or anxiety. Use of alcohol, medications, and/or illegal substances can be problematic for a student who already has trouble with impulse control or mood management.
Learning Disabilities: Learning Disabilities (LD) refer to a significant difficulty in a specific area of learning (reading, writing, math, nonverbal), despite strengths in other areas. Learning Disabilities are persistent throughout life, but may manifest differently depending on the learning demands, academic setting, or the use of compensatory strategies. Getting a clear picture of one's learning disability contributes to improving strategies for meeting one's goals, creating achievable plans, and reducing frustration from unexplained difficulties that persist even when a student is giving his or her best effort.
Chronic Medical/Health Disability: Physical disorders are typically grouped into general categories: neurological, musculoskeletal, and severe, chronic medical conditions. Such medical conditions may include, but are not limited to, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, HIV or AIDS, cystic fibrosis, food allergies, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.
Visual Disability: Visual impairments may be considered disabilities if they significantly impair one's functioning in the major life activity of seeing, and are not mitigated by glasses or lenses.
Hearing Disability: Students who are deaf or experience hearing loss may be considered disabled if their condition significantly impairs one's functioning in the major life activity of hearing.
Speech Disability: – such as speech impediments and disorders . Speech and language disorders refer to problems in communication and related areas, such as oral-motor function. These delays and disorders range from simple sound substitutions to the inability to understand or use language or use the oral-motor mechanism for functional speech.
Psychological/Psychiatric Disabilities: Psychiatric disorders represent severe mental and emotional distress that significantly hinders a student's ability to cope with the stresses of daily living and academic life. Psychiatric disorders may impair concentration, energy, memory, and the ability to process information, and schoolwork may be compromised. Such conditions may include, but are not limited to, major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that begins early in childhood and lasts throughout a person's life. It affects how a person acts and interacts with others, communicates, and learns. It includes what used to be known as Asperger syndrome, Asperger's disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder. It is referred to as a "spectrum" because ASD can present in many different ways, with varying degrees of impact.
Temporarily Disabling Conditions: Adjustments may be made to mitigate the impact of temporarily disabling conditions. For example, providing a scribe or note-taker may lessen the medical hardship of a broken arm or the hardship of a broken leg may be mitigated by facilitating transportation around campus by SMU’s campus police. A medical statement may be required if equipment will be needed during the short period the person is recovering. Please refer to the guidelines for Chronic Medical Health conditions and contact DASS for assistance on a case-by-case basis.
For those with temporary hand/wrist injuries, we recommend the student consider using the dictation software, Dragon Naturally Speaking, or the helpful program for one-handed keyboarding. http://www.onehandkeyboard.org/
A student who has a temporary illness (e.g. cold, flu, mononucleosis), is recovering from surgery not based on a long-term condition, or loses mobility for a short period of time (e.g., due to a broken limb, appendage, or a surgery) would not be considered to have a disability.
Temporary handicapped parking permits can be issued by the Park ‘N Pony office at 6116 N. Central Expressway, Suite 101, phone 214-768-7275.
Unfortunately, wheelchairs are not available for loan from SMU. If you are a student with temporary condition or a visitor who would like to borrow a wheelchair for use on campus, please contact CIV Medical, located near SMU: 214-363-2289; www.dallaswheelchairs.com.