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Mobility Disabilities

The photo shows a picture of a male student in wheelchair in a library.

Many types of orthopedic or neuromuscular disabilities can impact mobility. These disabilities include but are not limited to amputation, paralysis, cerebral palsy, stroke, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, and spinal cord injury. Mobility disabilities range from lower body disabilities, which may require use of canes, walkers, or wheelchairs, to upper body disabilities, which may include limited or no use of the upper extremities and hands. Mobility disabilities can be permanent or temporary. (DO-IT 2004)

Functional Limitations

It is impossible to generalize about the functional abilities of students with mobility disabilities. Mobility disabilities may impact students’ strength, speed, endurance, coordination, manual dexterity, range of motion, and control of limbs, in various ways and to varying degrees. Students may experience difficulties that include but are not limited to:

  • Chronic fatigue or pain
  • Difficulty maintaining stamina
  • Difficulty walking, standing, lifting, or sitting for a long time
  • Lateness to class or attendance
  • Problems with physical access to, and movement in, classrooms and labs
  • Difficulty manipulating objects, such as pages, pens, computers, and lab equipment.
  • Accommodations

    Accommodation needs of students with mobility disabilities vary greatly by individual and academic activity. Examples of accommodations for students with mobility disabilities include:

  • Accessible locations for classrooms, labs, and field trips
  • Wide aisles and uncluttered work areas
  • Adjustable-height and tilt tables
  • Easily reachable equipment
  • Note-takers, scribes, and lab assistants
  • Assistance with group activities
  • Extended time on exams and or alternative testing arrangements
  • Assistive technology
  • Course materials available in electronic format
  • Teaching Strategies

  • Be prepared to listen, and involve the student in finding a solution to his challenges in the course
  • Understand that occasional lateness or absence may be unavoidable
  • Plan appropriate seating to integrate students into the class; avoid relegating them to a doorway, a side aisle, or the back of the room
  • Plan ahead for off-campus assignments and fieldwork as these may pose problems of access for the student
  • Know the college’s emergency evacuation plan, and assure that it is manageable for your students with mobility disabilities
  • Our Sources and Additional Resources:

  • DO-IT Home: The Faculty Room (University of Washington):
  • DO-IT Home: Mobility Impairments (University of Washington):
  • Fast Facts for Faculty: Teaching Students with Medical/Mobility Disabilities (Ohio State University Partnership Grant):
    http://ada.osu.edu/resources/fastfacts/Medical_Mobility_Disabilitie s.htm