Temporary Conditions

What are temporary conditions?

Graduate walking in a line using crutches in 2015 graduation ceremony

Temporary conditions include broken bones, recovery from surgery, or other medical conditions which temporarily interfere with a student’s ability to fully participate in academic activities (e.g., the ability to attend class, take notes, write papers, or complete exams as scheduled).

Temporary conditions are not classified as disabilities unless their severity results in a substantial limitation of one or more major life activities. This can only be judged on a case by case basis.

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not obligate an institution to provide services to individuals with temporary conditions, the University of Wisconsin-Madison recognizes the challenges a temporary condition can create. Because a temporary condition can occur at any point before or during the semester, the timing can significantly influence the options a student has for continuing in a particular class or remaining enrolled for the semester. Timely and honest communication with faculty and relevant campus personnel about the nature and duration of the condition and requested academic assistance can often result in satisfactory solutions to the short-term problems caused by the injury or condition.

Who should students talk with FIRST about academic concerns?

Students should first contact instructors to: 1) inform the instructor of the nature of the condition, and 2) discuss alternative ways to complete course requirements. Decisions about if and how to accommodate the condition are at the discretion of the instructor. Instructors may legitimately request a doctor’s verification of a condition, particularly if the condition isn’t visually apparent. Students may share medical information directly with faculty; they are not required to go through the McBurney Center.

Students should also consult their academic advisors. Your academic advisor can help you determine if:

  • the same course is offered by an instructor whose course design does not pose the same access concerns (e.g., writing, consistent attendance, etc.)
  • the specific course is absolutely necessary for you to take in this semester or if enrollment can be delayed until you recover
  • an alternative course that doesn’t pose the same access challenges is available for you to take in the current semester
  • you are eligible to request an Incomplete for a class or classes
  • withdrawal for the semester is the best course of action

Students may also contact the McBurney Disability Resource Center when faculty request that McBurney verify a medical condition, particularly if a student is requesting an accommodation that is not an obvious need. If so, students should ask their physicians to submit a General Disability Assessment Form to McBurney. Students should also submit an McBurney Connect Online Student Application to McBurney. Please indicate on the form that you want McBurney to verify your medical condition to faculty and attach faculty names and email addresses.

What kinds of academic assistance can a student request to complete course requirements?


  • Ask your instructor or teaching assistant if the course notes already exist and whether they would be willing to give you a copy or let you make a copy. Instructors may suggest other possibilities.
  • Find someone in the class who would be willing to let you copy his or her notes. The McBurney Center can provide you with a letter requesting your instructor’s help in recruiting a volunteer notetaker.
  • Talk with the instructor about the option of recording the course audio.

Writing Projects

  • Seek assistive technology on or off campus (e.g., adaptive computer keyboard, speech recognition software, etc.). Speech recognition is software program that converts spoken words into words in a document. Students can use what is already built into: their computer (Mac Dictation or Windows Speech Recognition), their mobile device, and apps provided through UW-Madison licensing including Google Docs Voice Typing and  Office365 Dictation (web, desktop apps, and mobile).  Alternatively, Dragon Naturally Speaking for Windows is a commercial product that can be purchased (an educational version is available) or can be used in the McBurney Learning Resource Room at Memorial Library (ask for the key at the circulation desk).
  • Negotiate extra time to complete papers.
  • Hire writing help. For example, post a listing on the UW Job Center website.
  • Get a volunteer to help with writing or to transcribe from audio (the Morgridge Center could post flyers, with your contact information, in residence halls or you could ask someone from your class).
  • Negotiate a substitute for a written assignment (e.g., oral or taped presentation, weighing other course requirements more heavily, etc.).
  • Use a combination of these options. Be sure to involve your instructors in finding solutions.

Taking Exams

Work with your instructor to make informal accommodations (e.g., using a computer, recording your answers to short-answer and/or essay questions, having someone in the department scribe the exam, using speech recognition – see “Writing Projects” above).

Absences from Class

Talk with your instructors about alternative ways to meet course requirements. Attendance may be mandatory for foreign language languages classes, laboratory classes, and other participatory classes where replicating the classroom experience outside of class may be impossible. You may have no option but to retake these classes another semester. Other classes may provide more flexibility. For example, professors may allow you to substitute a paper for participation in class discussions or may allow you to weigh other components of the class more heavily.

What transportation alternatives are available for helping me get to and from classes?

Getting to and from classes with a temporary mobility condition will take you longer than usual. Whether you are using a standard bus, paratransit, an accessible parking permit, a taxi, or a combination of methods that best accommodate your schedule, allow yourself extra time. Students with permanent mobility disabilities will schedule classes in the same or nearby buildings, or buildings near bus stops; they will avoid back-to-back classes that don’t accommodate needed travel time. Students with temporary conditions are often stuck with a schedule that wasn’t set up with limited mobility in mind.

The following suggestions will help you use the transportation options listed below as effectively as possible:

  • Re-arrange your schedule if it’s early in the semester and other class options are still available.
  • Ask faculty if you can informally attend another section of the class during your recovery.
  • Talk with faculty about leaving class early so you can make it to your next class on time. Ask a fellow student if they can share notes for the time you missed.
  • Consider reducing your class load. It’s better to do well with fewer credits than have a bad semester or jeopardize your recovery because you’ve pushed yourself beyond your physical capacity.

Use campus and city bus service

Also consider whether you are physically able to navigate the distance from designated bus stops to your destinations.

Apply for Madison Metro’s Paratransit Bus Service

The ASM student bus pass provides free paratransit services for students eligible for paratransit.  Madison Metro’s Paratransit Service provides wheelchair accessible, curb to curb service from one building to another, rather than from bus stop to bus stop (Directions for applying for Madison Metro’s paratransit service). Please note that the completed application can be brought with you to the required in-person assessment or mailed in advance. Faxes and emails are not sufficient due to federal regulations which require an original signature on the application. If you have medical documentation supporting your need for mobility assistance, you are encouraged to also bring that to help speed up the application process If you are approved for paratransit, you will also have to show evidence that you are a university student (a Wiscard) and have an ASM Bus Pass.

Before choosing this option think about how much time you have between classes. While paratransit will pick you up and drop you off very close to the building, they may not be able to get you to your next class within the standard 15 minute break between classes. Allowing at least 30 minutes for travel between classes may be more realistic.

Purchase an accessible parking permit

A temporary UW DIS permit may be purchased at any Transportation Services office with a University ID and letter from a doctor. The temporary UW DIS permit is valid for a maximum period of two months and will not be extended without a State DOT permit.

Before choosing this option, think about your class schedule and classroom locations. Some areas of campus, such as the Bascom Hill area, have limited parking and spaces may be filled early in the day, necessitating walking from a more distant lot or catching the campus bus. If you are borrowing a manual wheelchair, do you have the ability to get the chair in and out of your vehicle?

Schedule taxi service

Using a taxi for short trips within campus can be a flexible and immediate transportation solution. Taxis may be able to accommodate a 15 minute window between classes. The cab companies in Madison are: Union Cab and Madison Taxi and both take reservations and accept credit cards. Union Cab also offers wheelchair accessible service (lift-equipped vehicles). When you are trying to make it to class or other appointments, reservations are strongly encouraged.

What other resources are available for people with temporary mobility conditions?

Elevator Access and Keys

The following buildings have elevators with some floors that require an authorized current Wiscard.

  • Van Hise (getting on or off at floors 2-4 is restricted) – Click on the McBurney Connect “APPLY for Services” button to complete the Student Application form. Please indicate on the form that you are requesting elevator access to be added to your Wiscard. Please allow at least 48 business hours to ensure processing time.
  • Computer Science & Statistics Building (the tower 3 elevator has restricted access after business hours). Please contact your instructor or supervisor if this access is appropriate.

Note: If you encounter barriers with buildings or elevators that are not listed above, please contact the McBurney Center for further assistance.

Loaner Wheelchairs

Local businesses rent and sell wheelchairs. Students are also encouraged to work through their medical services to obtain wheelchairs, scooters, crutches or other personal mobility devices.

Information on Physical Accessibility of Classrooms and Buildings

Facilities, Planning and Management’s Disability Resource Guide.

Indoor routes on the campus (PDF) – There are two no-step interior routes that connect buildings 1) from University Ave to the top of Bascom Hill ( Bascom Hall, Social Sciences and Ingraham Hall) via Chamberlin Hall, Sterling Hall, and Van Vleck Hall and 2) from University Avenue to Linden Drive, via Medical Sciences Center, Social Work, and the Middleton Building.

Snow Removal

Snow Removal Service for Individuals with Mobility Conditions.

Accessibility in University Housing (Halls and Apartments)

Housing Accommodation Requests and Contact Info

Still Have Questions or Access Barriers?

If you have questions about the information above, please complete a Student Application by clicking the “APPLY for Services” button at McBurney Connect.  A McBurney staff member will follow up with you within two business days. If you have an emergency situation, please contact our office and ask to speak with one of our Transition Services staff.

If your condition is long-term and/or severe enough that it may qualify as a disability and the resources and suggestions above do not meet your needs, you should Apply for Accommodations.

Most of the resources recommended above are the same as those recommended for students with permanent disabilities. For most students with temporary conditions, becoming eligible for McBurney services may only impact the number of options available for notetaking and test accommodations.

Please note that students approved for McBurney Center accommodations must also meet the same essential attendance requirements as students without disabilities.