An Armstrong State University sexual misconduct policy seems to indicate that students with physical or mental impairments cannot consent to sexual activity.

In its policy (accessed July 15, 2015), the university explains consent, mostly following "yes means yes" policies that consent must be ongoing and that silence does not equal consent. However, the final point regarding consent seems aimed at minors and persons with disabilities.

"In addition, persons under the age of 16 and persons who have a physical and/or mental impairment are unable to give consent," the policy reads.

At first glance, this appears to indicate that a student in a wheelchair would not be able to ever consent to sexual activity simply because of his or her physical handicap.

Perhaps the school was only referring to impairment due to, say, alcohol or drugs, like if someone were falling down drunk or passed out. But the policy already explains consent when impaired due to alcohol or drugs just a few sentences earlier.

"Individuals who consent to sex must be able to fully understand what they are doing. For example, alcohol or other drugs may impair a person's ability to give valid consent if the person cannot comprehend the who, what, where, when, why, or how of a sexual interaction," the policy states. "Consumption of alcohol, in and of itself, does not relieve an individual initiating sexual activity of the responsibility to obtain ongoing consent."

When asked to clarify the policy, Armstrong's Title IX coordinator Deidra Dennie told the Washington Examiner that the policy currently posted on the website was missing words and would be fixed shortly.

"Unfortunately the policy you have was corrected but not re-posted to our website. The words 'that inhibit' were added to clarify this specific definition," Dennie said. "I apologize that our website was not kept up to date with the actual policy in circulation."

She also indicated that Armstrong was in the process of approving a new code of conduct — including its sexual misconduct policy — that would include a more detailed definition of consent for the coming school year.

It appears the university was unaware that its stated policy — in effect since September 8, 2014 — suggested physically disabled students could not consent to sexual activities.

The idea that a person with a physical disability is unable to consent to sex simply because of that disability makes little sense. In a feature for WebMD, Gina Shaw broaches the subject of sex while disabled, writing that "Sexuality doesn't end when a person suffers a disability." This would also apply to those born with disabilities, obviously.

The policy also brings up the difficult subject of sex with someone who is mentally impaired. There are some mental impairments that would obviously negate consent, but without a clear definition of what those are, the issue is subject to questioning. Is a person on anti-depressants — a mood-altering drug — too mentally impaired to consent? There was a case earlier this year involving a man who was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting his wife, who had Alzheimer's. The wife had previously consented to sex, but the argument was that since she was suffering from dementia she could no longer consent. Doctors at her treatment facility informed her husband as much.

Katherine C. Pearson, who specializes in elder law at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law discussed the case with Bloomberg News, highlighting the difficulty of the situation.

"Any partner in a marriage has the right to say no," Pearson said. "What we haven't completely understood is, as in this case, at what point in dementia do you lose the right to say yes?"

That case involved the elderly, not college students, but it illustrates the difficulty in determining whether someone with a mental impairment is able to consent.

Without clear definitions of physical and mental impairment, the Armstrong sexual misconduct policy leaves a lot of open questions.