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Case example: Health impairment (arthritis)

(Used with permission from DO IT:Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking & Technology University of Washington)

Karen and College Work


My name is Karen. I'm a third-year math education student with Rheumatoid Arthritis. On a good day I can attend my classes, take notes, and participate without difficulty. When my arthritis is problematic, I have a hard time gripping a pencil to write. I also fatigue very quickly and cannot work on homework for prolonged periods of time.

Access Issues

My arthritis interferes with my ability to type quickly and efficiently as well as take handwritten class notes. My doctor has recently restricted me from typing and writing for extended periods of time. I also have difficulty carrying out extended math notations and writing my lesson plans for my education class.


The disability student services office helped me access computer technology in a computer lab on campus. I was accommodated with speech recognition software, an alternative keyboard, and a trackball. I was also provided access to math software that allowed me to complete math notations without writing. With this computer configuration, I was no longer dependent upon writing or typing with a standard keyboard to complete class assignments. I also requested permission from my professors to tape their lectures and all were supportive of this accommodation, which minimizes my need to write.


This example illustrates:

  • How adaptive technology can accommodate a student who has difficulty writing and typing.
  • How campus computer lab staff can support disabled students.
  • How tape recorders can provide an effective accommodation, but their use should be discussed with the instructor prior to implementation.