Lesson 07: Mobility

Serving Students with Disabilities
Distance Learning Course


The purpose of this lesson is to increase your awareness of issues and strategies related specifically to working with students with MOBILITY IMPAIRMENTS.

Questions to reflect upon while reading the content

What challenges might students with MOBILITY impairments face in your department or office? How could you make it more accessible now? What additional accommodations might students with mobility impairments require?


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 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.

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. A student's physical ability may also vary from day to day.

Typical Accommodations

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

  • Accessible locations (buildings, floors, office space)
  • Wide aisles and uncluttered work areas
  • Adjustable-height and -tilt tables
  • All equipment located within reach
  • Computers with speech input, Morse code, and alternative keyboards
  • Access to handicapped parking spaces, wheelchair ramps, curb cuts, restrooms, and elevators
  • Materials available in electronic format
  • Access to resources available on the Internet
  • A scribe or extended time to complete forms
  • Sitting down or moving back to create a more comfortable angle for conversation with a student in a wheelchair


MOBILITY impairments may make walking, sitting, bending, carrying, or using fingers, hands, or arms difficult or impossible. Mobility impairments may be permanent or temporary and result from many causes, including amputation, Multiple Sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and Cerebral Palsy.
By working together, YOU, the STUDENT, and the DISABLED STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE can assure that the accommodations provided are appropriate and reasonable.

Question for Discussion

Suppose you are serving a student in your office who cannot write with her hands. Send an email message to the group answering the following question:

What are some things she might reasonably request to facilitate access to your program?

Your email SUBJECT line should read: Access 7: MOBILITY.

Further Information

You can read answers to frequently asked questions, explore case studies, and access additional resources at The Conference Room, https://www.washington.edu/doit/distance-learning-course-serving-students-disabilities.

(c) 2004 DO-IT. Permission is granted to copy material in this email for educational, noncommercial purposes provided the source is acknowledged. Contact DO-IT at 1-206-685-3648 or doit@u.washington.edu.