Mobility Impairments

Case Studies | Q&A's | Resources

Many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular impairments can impact mobility. These include but are not limited to amputation, paralysis, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Arthritis, and spinal cord injury. Mobility impairments range from lower-body impairments, which may require use of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, to upper-body impairments, which may include limited or no use of the upper extremities and hands. It is impossible to generalize about functional abilities because of the wide variety of disabilities and specific diagnoses.

Mobility impairments can be permanent or temporary. A broken bone, an injury, or a surgical procedure can temporarily impact a student's ability to walk independently and travel between campus buildings in a timely manner. Likewise, some students may be ambulatory with a walker for short distances within a specific campus office but may need a wheelchair or scooter for longer distances.

Mobility impairments can impact students in several ways. Some students may take longer to get from one location to another, enter buildings, or maneuver in small spaces. In some cases, physical barriers may inhibit entry into a building or classroom. It may also be difficult or impossible to get to off-campus sites without accessible transportation.

A mobility impairment may impact, to varying degrees, a student's ability to manipulate objects, turn pages, write with a pen or pencil, type at a keyboard, or retrieve research materials. Medical conditions such as Arthritis or repetitive stress injuries can impact fine motor abilities and decrease endurance. A student's physical abilities may also vary from day to day and at different times during a given day.

A wide range of assistive technology is available to increase the functional abilities of individuals who have mobility impairments. Such technology can help them reach high objects, operate a telephone, and use a computer. For future information about specialized technology, consult the publication and video presentation, Working Together: Computers and People with Mobility Impairments.

Check Your Understanding

Suppose you have hired a student who cannot write with her hands. What are some things she might reasonably request to facilitate her employment? Specifically, which of the following accommodations do you think are reasonable to support her on the job? Choose a response.

  1. Allow her to use a computer.
  2. Use lower standards to evaluate her work because of her writing difficulties.
  3. Send notes to her via electronic mail or post on the World Wide Web.
  4. Tell another student to take notes for her.
  5. Allow her to tape lectures and meetings.

Check Your Understanding Responses

  1. Allow her to use a computer.
    Using a computer might be helpful to this student. Many adaptive computer products allow hands-free computing. Consult the Information Technology publications and video presentations for further information.
  2. Use lower standards to evaluate her work because of her writing difficulties.
    Do not lower your standards. An accommodation should allow a student to perform the essential work functions of a job, not waive them. However, be creative and resourceful in helping the student maximize productivity.
  3. Send notes to her via electronic mail or post on the World Wide Web.
    The student may benefit from receiving notes and handouts in electronic form. You might want to provide this option to all staff.
  4. Tell another student to take notes for her.
    It is essential that you protect the individual's privacy. Consult with the student to determine if this is the best option for accommodation.
  5. Allow her to tape lectures and meetings.
    The student may request that she be allowed to tape meetings. If you have concerns about having your lectures and meetings taped, be sure to discuss them with your campus disabled student services staff or human resources department staff.

In all cases, it is important to remember that the student is responsible for requesting an accommodation and providing documentation of his or her disability if requested. Staff in the disabled student services office or the human resources department can be consulted regarding reasonable accommodations.

Accommodations

Examples of accommodations for students with mobility impairments include the following:

For frequently asked questions, case studies, and promising practices, consult the searchable Knowledge Base in The Conference Room.

Specific Student Services

Accommodation needs of students with mobility impairments vary greatly by individual and by the campus service accessed. Access issues and suggested accommodations in each area can be found in the following areas of The Conference Room: