Student with Cerebral Palsy Granted Conditional Acceptance to Pharmacy School


After some deliberation, a student with cerebral palsy will be able to attend North Dakota State University School of Pharmacy if she can meet certain requirements.

After some deliberation, a student with cerebral palsy will be able to attend North Dakota State University (NDSU) School of Pharmacy if she can meet certain requirements.

Kelli Sem, who uses a motorized wheelchair, was told she can attend the school if she earns at least a C grade in her spring pre-pharmacy courses, The Bismarck Tribune reported. That part of the conditional acceptance will hopefully not pose an issue for Sem, who earned a 4.0 grade point average this past semester.

“We still have the accommodation to worry about,” Sem told The Bismarck Tribune. “We’re hopeful they’ll work with us.”

Sem was referring to an arrangement she was hoping to finalize with NDSU in which she could use an assistant to tell him or her what to do in a lab. She has previously used this technique in chemistry classes, the paper reported.

Cerebral palsy can limit an individual’s function, mobility, and muscle control. Those with cerebral palsy may have trouble with balance, posture, and fine or gross motor skills.

In addition to using a wheelchair, Sem has difficulty with certain tasks involving her hands, according to The Bismarck Tribune.

NDSU’s Disability Services said it would need to wait until later this summer, when Sem knows what her classes would be, to figure out accommodations.

Earlier, Sem’s case was taken to the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, which unanimously agreed that the student should be able to attend the pharmacy program with certain reasonable accommodations.

Sem’s lawyer, Scott Haider, said the pharmacy school added new physical requirements around the same time that Sem expressed interest in the school.

According to InForum, open records requests showed that Charles Peterson, dean of the College of Health Professions at NDSU, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues:

“As far as proposed revisions to our technical standards policy, I would only be concerned about the timing of these changes and that it could be perceived that we are changing it now because of Kelli and that could become a real issue and problem for us, especially if the proposed changes would be making it harder for her to be admitted to the program. If the changes are actually in her favor or a benefit to her, they would likely not become a big issue for us.”

Haider pointed out that other pharmacy schools have granted admission to students with similar special needs.

“I would hope that NDSU does not want to be known as an institution that goes out of its way to discourage individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities to seek access,” Haider told The Bismarck Tribune.

MyChild at, a website dedicated to increasing awareness and knowledge about the neurological condition, argued that individuals with disabilities like cerebral palsy have the same rights as those without disabilities to things like education, transportation, employment, travel, and housing.

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