Centre for Accessibility Services

Arthritis

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is the common name given to a condition relating to joint pain. There are over 100 different types of arthritis. Arthritis can affect people of any age and gender, however, it is more common in women and occurs more frequently as people get older.  The most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriatic arthritis. Osteoarthritis is caused by the wearing away of cartilage which means there is no cushioning between joints, and bones rub together. This causes a lot of pain, swelling, and stiffness. Over time, joints may lose strength and pain can become chronic.

Rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are examples of inflammatory arthritis. This is when the immune system wrongfully attacks the joints with inflammation. This can potentially lead to joint erosion.                                 

Common types of arthritis

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Lupus
  • Back pain
  • Juvenile arthritis
  • Other musculoskeletal pain 

Symptoms & common characteristics

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Chronic pain
  • Limited mobility

Centre for Accessibility support for arthritis may include

  • Assistive technology
  • Note-taking services
  • Padded chair in classrooms
  • Scribe/computer use for exams
  • Supervised exam breaks

Statistics

  • Over 6 million (1 in 5) Canadian’s have arthritis
  • Nearly 60% of people with arthritis are women
  • Arthritis affects all ages, but the likelihood increases with age
  • Nearly 1 in 2 seniors over 65 have arthritis
  • Over half of people with arthritis are under the age of 65

Sources

Arthritis Foundation

Arthritis Society

How to support students with arthritis

Notes and handouts: Provide lecture notes and course materials in a variety of formats (i.e. electronic and compatible with assistive technology). Provide hand-outs electronically in advance of lectures, and during class display the main points to be covered in each session. 

Adaptive equipment: Encourage the use of assistive technology, such as tape recorders or laptops; if students are eligible for this accommodation. Students can access CAS to discuss adaptive equipment recommended for their use.  

Videos: Provide interactive closed-captioned video. Descriptions of important visual elements can be helpful to those challenged by audio deficiencies.

Teaching strategies: Allow for stretch and bathroom breaks in the classroom, especially for long lectures.

Resources and websites

Arthritis Society 

Childhood/juvenile arthritis

Cleveland Clinic – Post-traumatic arthritis

How to manage arthritis as a student

Identify the best study time: If the symptoms of your disability tend to be worse at a particular time of day, plan your studying around that so you aren’t trying to focus on studying when you are in pain. 

Plan ahead: Manage your time effectively, as you are less likely to encounter as many problems with deadlines. 

Tailor your equipment to your needs: Adding pen/pencil grips can make a big difference to your comfort whilst writing. 

Fatigue: If you are struggling with fatigue you may find it helpful to create a schedule that supports your school and personal needs. If you have more energy at a certain time of day, plan your most difficult tasks for this time. Make sure to include rest periods. Use this time to fully rest, not read or watch TV. Prioritize what needs to be done and let other things go and try not to do it all. Breaking down larger tasks into smaller tasks will give you a chance to rest while you work. 

Self-care planning: Staying organized and creating a self-care plan that can model positive self-care strategies ensures you are taking care of yourself amongst the stressors of post-secondary life. 

Daily routine: To ensure that you are successful in your time at University, creating a routine that provides you with enough sleep, healthy eating and regular exercise can be beneficial to your overall health. A proper routine will decrease or eliminate the symptoms of your disability and allow you to maintain good mental, emotional and physical health. 

Support: A strong support system can allow you to lean on those that understand your disability the best. This can include community resources, University resources, friends, family, and pets. Students can bring their support systems to see counsellors, advisors or accessibility advisors through written consent. 

Physical design: Consider the classroom seating layout to decipher what works best for you, especially for videos and demonstrations. If the symptoms of your disability(ies) require you to take breaks or access the washroom during class, ensure you sit near an exit. If you require further assistance with seating, your accessibility advisor can help situate classroom set-ups.

Resources and websites 

Living with arthritis as a college freshman

Arthritis Society

Childhood/juvenile arthritis

Cleveland Clinic – Post-traumatic arthritis

UW Medicine – College and arthritis

Contact Us