Why Breaks Need to Be More than Five Minutes

Why Breaks Need to Be More than 5 Minutes


Some classes take 5-minute breaks, and this disadvantages many students with disabilities. Here are some examples of why it is more equitable to allow 15 minutes for breaks. This is feedback that is often given at conferences by those with disabilities, that breaks between sessions are too short to take care of disability needs. Similarly, students with disabilities have commented on not having sufficient time during breaks. (Faculty with disabilities likewise may need more time!)


Hypothetical examples:

  • Suki has diabetes and needs to test her blood level and possibly give herself a shot.
  • Shania uses a wheelchair and has a personal assistant who helps with toileting, which takes time.
  • Georgina gets migraines and when she takes medication, she wants a few minutes to close her eyes and wait for the medication to start working.
  • Ian has PTSD and gets high anxiety and cognitive overload, so he wants to step outside for a few minutes to ground himself.
  • Leslie has ADHD and loses focus after a while, so plays with silly putty and zones out for a while.
  • Celeste experiences physical and cognitive fatigue and lays down for a few minutes.
  • Samuel has to eat a little something at regular intervals and wants to heat up his oatmeal.


There are many reasons to allow students more time during breaks. Based on current data there are at least as many disabled students who have not registered with the Office of Accessibility as have registered, so you are unlikely to know about their individual needs. You might think that you don’t need to accommodate a student who has not self-disclosed, but in the principle of universal design we should not make assumptions of ‘typicality’ but rather utilize the best design for most.