Mobility Impairments

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 that may include limited or no use of the upper extremities and hands.

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 room. 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.


Examples of accommodations for students with mobility impairments include:

  • accessible locations for classrooms, labs, work sites, and field trips
  • wide aisles and uncluttered work areas
  • adjustable height and tilt tables
  • all equipment located within reach
  • note takers, scribes, and lab assistants
  • group lab or work assignments
  • extended exam time or alternative testing arrangements
  • computers with speech input, Morse code, and alternative keyboards
  • access to disability parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, and elevators
  • course and program materials available in electronic format
  • When speaking with a student in a wheelchair for more than a few minutes, sit down or move back to create a more comfortable angle for conversation.

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 email or post online.
  4. Tell another student to take notes for her.
  5. Allow her to record lectures and meetings.


  1. Allow her to use a computer.
    Using a computer might be helpful to this student. Many adaptive computer products allow hands-free computing. 
  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 email or post online.
    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 record lectures and meetings.
    The student may request that she be allowed to record meetings. If you have concerns about having your lectures and meetings recorded, be sure to discuss them with your campus disabled student services staff or human resources department staff.

Related Links

Working Together: Computers and People with Mobility Impairments (video)

More Information

Explore DO-IT Publications, Knowledge Base articles, and websites on this topic at Accommodation Resources: Mobility Impairments. To learn about specific accommodations for an academic activity, select from the list below.