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Disabilities


What is a Disability?

The information on this page will help you:

  • understand many different types of disabilities,
  • learn the definition of disability, and
  • determine whether or not you qualify for protection and accommodations.

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Types of Disabilities

You might have heard the saying that no two snowflakes are alike. The same thing can be said about a person with a disability. Persons with disabilities have many different characteristics. In fact, many persons with disabilities look just like everyone else. Their disabilities may be hidden.

Many types of disabilities exist, such as physical, sensory, cognitive, psychiatric, and health-related.

Physical disabilities often cause a person to use special equipment like a wheelchair, cane, or prosthetic limb. Persons with physical disabilities may have difficulty with movement or self-care, but are otherwise just like anyone else.

Another type of disability that people are familiar with is sensory disabilities. Sensory disabilities affect the senses and include blindness and deafness. Sensory and physical disabilities are usually easy for people to notice, but not all disabilities are visible.

An example of an invisible disability is a psychiatric disability. This category includes conditions like bipolar disorder, depression, and many others. Medications and therapies often help persons with psychiatric disabilities to live and function successfully in the community.

Cognitive disabilities vary tremendously and can also be difficult to see. Learning disabilities are in this category. A person with a learning disability usually has average to above average intelligence but difficulty learning, remembering and communicating information. Learning disabilities come in many different forms and although they usually affect a personís ability to complete school-related tasks, learning disabilities can also affect job performance.

Some people with sicknesses or diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes, and cancer are considered as having a health-related disability. Not everyone who is sick has a disability. You should check with your schoolís office for students with disabilities to see if you qualify for assistance.

Have you ever received special services or accommodations for any of the disability types described above?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a law written to protect persons with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA defines disability as any physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as

  • caring for oneself;
  • performing manual tasks;
  • walking, seeing;
  • hearing;
  • speaking;
  • breathing;
  • learning, or
  • working.

For more information about the ADA, refer to the web page "More Rights and Responsibilities of Students with Disabilities."

Deciding whether a student meets the definition of disability under the ADA is handled on a case-by-case basis. Keep in mind that persons are not entitled to protection under the ADA simply because they have been diagnosed with a disability. The disability must substantially limit their ability to perform major life activities.

To help you understand the many disabilities covered by the ADA, a partial list follows:

  • physical, sight, speech or hearing impairments,
  • epilepsy,
  • muscular dystrophy,
  • multiple sclerosis,
  • cancer, heart diseases,
  • diabetes,
  • chronic illnesses,
  • HIV or AIDS,
  • cognitive disabilities,
  • psychiatric disabilities,
  • specific learning disabilities,
  • developmental disabilities, and
  • recovered drug or alcohol addiction.

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Services Available in the College Setting

First, a person with a disability must seek out accommodations and services at the college's Disabled Student Programs and Services. This requires you to present the necessary paperwork to prove that you have a disability.

For example, a student with a learning disability would need to go the Disabled Student Programs and Services office and present test scores and records that documents the disability. Cuesta College offers Learning Disability Testing to enrolled students.

Then the student would discuss with a DSPS Specialist which reasonable accommodations are needed to be successful.

The college uses the Individual Accommodations Model to determine appropriate and effective academic accommodations. The model helps both the student and the service provider select accommodations that are based on a studentís needs, strengths, and goals. For a person with a learning disability, accommodations might include extended time on tests, test-taking in an isolated setting, a note-taker, or the use of a tape-recorder.

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Steps I Should Take if I Think I Have a Disability

If you have a record of having a disability in the past or have one now, contact the Disabled Student Programs and Services office. You must present records to verify your disability. Next, you will need to determine whether your disability is substantially limiting your ability to be successful in the college setting. If it is, you may be entitled to accommodations. Keep in mind that accommodations must be reasonable and are provided to give you a fair chance at success in school not a privilege or unfair advantage.

If you think you may have a disability but do not have the necessary paperwork, contact Disabled Student Programs and Services. They may be able to help you identify the steps you need to take to receive services and/or accommodations.

Major portions of the above text were taken from a document which was supported in whole or in part by the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, (Cooperative Agreement No. H324M980109). However, the opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, and no official endorsement by the Department should be inferred Note: There are no copyright restrictions on this document: however, please credit the source and support of federal funds when copying all or part of this material. This document is also available on the web for printing at: http://das.kucrl.org/iam.html.

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Types of Disabilities:
Cuesta College Disability Definitions

Title V of the California Code of Regulations defines the following disabilities for California Community Colleges. Below is a listing of disabilities and hyperlinks to information on teaching students with these disabilities.

Acquired Brain Impairment: A verified deficit in brain functioning which results in a total or partial loss of cognitive, communicative, motor, psychosocial, and/or sensory perceptual abilities.

Communication Disability: An impairment in the processes of speech, language, or hearing.

Developmentally Delayed Learner: The developmentally delayed learner exhibits below average intellectual functioning and has potential: for measurable achievement in instructional and employment settings.

Learning Disability: A persistent condition of presumed neurological dysfunction which may exist with other disabling conditions and continues despite instruction in standard classroom situations. To be categorized as learning disabled, a student must exhibit:

  • average to above average intellectual ability;
  • severe processing deficit(s); 
  • severe aptitude achievement discrepancy(cies), and 
  • measured achievement in an instructional or employment setting, and measured appropriate adaptive behavior.

Mobility Disability: A visual impairment, mobility or orthopedic impairment, or other health impairment.

Psychological Disability: A persistent, psychological or psychiatric disorder, or emotional or mental illness. The following are not included: sexual behavior disorders, compulsive behaviors, and psychoactive substance abuse.

Visual Disability: A visual impairment.

Other Disabilities: This category includes all students with disabilities who are not appropriate for any of the above categories and have a major life impairment and are in need of instruction and/or support, as verified by a Cuesta College DSPS specialist.

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