Mobility Impairments

Case Studies | Q&A's | Resources

There are many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular impairments that 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 the functional abilities of students with mobility impairments due to the wide variety of types of disabilities and specific diagnoses.

Mobility impairments can be permanent or temporary. A broken bone or surgical procedure can temporarily impact a student's ability to walk independently and travel between classroom buildings in a timely manner. Likewise, some students may be ambulatory with a walker for short distances within a classroom, 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 class to another, enter buildings, or maneuver in small spaces. In some cases physical barriers may inhibit entry into a building or classroom. Accessible transportation may also be required for students to get to fieldwork sites.

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, and/or retrieve research materials. Medical conditions such as Arthritis or repetitive stress injuries can impact fine motor abilities and decrease endurance for longer assignments. A student's physical abilities may also vary from day to day.

Accommodations

Examples of accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

Check Your Understanding

Suppose you have a student in your class who cannot write with her hands. What are some things she might reasonably request to facilitate her learning and participation in your course? Specifically, which of the following accommodations do you think are reasonable to support her need to take notes in class? Choose a response.

  1. Allow her to use a computer in class to take notes.
  2. Use lower standards to evaluate her learning because of her difficulties in taking notes.
  3. Send class notes to her via electronic mail or post them on the World Wide Web.
  4. Tell another student to take notes for her.
  5. Allow her to tape your lectures and class discussions.

Check Your Understanding Responses

  1. Allow her to use a computer in class to take notes.
    Using a computer in class might be helpful to this student. Many adaptive computer products allow hands-free computing.
  2. Use lower standards to evaluate her learning because of her difficulties in taking notes.
    Do not lower your standards. An accommodation should allow a student to meet the essential objectives and teachings of the course, not to waive them.
  3. Send class notes to her via electronic mail or post them on the World Wide Web.
    The student may benefit from receiving notes and handouts in electronic form before class, minimizing the need for in-class note taking. You might want to provide this option to all students.
  4. Tell another student to take notes for her.
    It is essential that you protect the student's privacy. Although you may announce to a class that you would like to have a volunteer note taker, do not identify the specific student for whom a note taker is needed. Once a volunteer is identified, with the approval of the student with a disability, you can arrange for them to meet and share notes.
  5. Allow her to tape your lectures and class discussions.
    The student may request that she be allowed to tape your lectures. If you have concerns about having your lectures taped, be sure to discuss them with your campus student services office.

Accommodation needs of students with mobility impairments vary greatly by individual and by academic activity. Specific academic activities that may pose challenges and suggested accommodations in each area can be found in the following resources: