Mobility Impairments

Some Considerations

  • Many students with mobility impairments lead lives similar to those without impairments.
  • Dependency and helplessness are not characteristics of physical disability.
  • A physical disability is often separate from matters of cognition and general health; it does not imply that a student has other health problems or difficulty with intellectual functioning.
  • People adjust to disabilities in a myriad of ways; students should not be assumed to be brave and courageous on the basis of disability.
  • When-talking with a wheelchair user, attempt to converse at eye level as opposed to standing and looking down at the person.
  • If a student has a harnessed service animal, it is working and should not be petted.
  • A student with a physical disability may or may not want assistance in a particular situation. Ask before giving assistance, and wait for a response. Listen to any instructions the student may give; by virtue of experience, the student likely knows the most safe and efficient way to accomplish the task at hand.
  • Be considerate of the extra time it might take a student with a disability to speak or act. Allow the student to set the pace walking or talking.
  • A wheelchair should be viewed as a personal-assistance device rather than something one is "confined to." It is also part of a student's personal space; do not lean on or touch the chair, and do not push the chair, unless asked.
  • Mobility impairments vary over a wide range, from temporary (e.g., a broken arm) to permanent (e.g., a form of paralysis). Other conditions, such as respiratory conditions, affect coordination and endurance; these can also affect a student's ability to perform in class.
  • Physical access to a class is the first barrier a student with a mobility impairment may face, and this is not only related to the specific accessibility of the building or classroom. A lack of reliable transportation or mechanical problems with a wheelchair can easily cause a student to be late.
  • Common accommodations for students with mobility impairments include note takers, scribes, accessible classroom/location/furniture, lab or library assistants, assistive computer technology, exam modifications, and conveniently located parking.

Instructional Strategies

  • If necessary, arrange for a room change before the term begins.
  • If possible, try not to seat wheelchair users in the back row. Move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of regular classroom seating.
  • Make arrangements early for field trips and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility).
  • Make sure accommodations are in place for in-class written work (allowing the student to use a scribe, to use assistive computer technology, or to complete the assignment outside of class).
  • Be flexible with deadlines: assignments that require library work or access to sites off-campus will consume more time for a student with a mobility impairment.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her.
  • Allow the student the same anonymity as other students.