Mobility Impairments Academic Impact

Many students with mobility impairments lead lives similar to those without impairments. Dependency and helplessness are not characteristics of physical disability.

A physical disability is often separate from matters of cognition and general health; it does not imply that a student has other health problems or difficulty with intellectual functioning.

People adjust to disabilities in a myriad of ways. Character traits (e.g., courageous or manipulative) should not be assumed on the basis of disability.

When talking with a wheelchair user, attempt to converse at eye level as opposed to standing and looking down. If a student has a communication impairment as well as a mobility impairment, take time to understand the person. Repeat what you understand, and when you don't understand, say so.

A student with a physical disability may or may not want assistance in a particular situation. Ask before giving assistance, and wait for a response. Listen to any instruction the student may give. By virtue of experience, the student likely knows the safest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand.

Be considerate of the extra time it might take a student with a disability to speak or act.

Allow the student to set the pace of walking or talking. A wheelchair should be viewed as a personal-assistance device rather than something to which one is "confined." It is also a part of a student's personal space; do not lean on or touch the chair.

Mobility impairments vary over a wide range, from temporary (e.g., a broken arm) to permanent (e.g., a form of paralysis or muscle degeneration). Other impairments, such as respiratory conditions, may affect coordination and endurance. These can also affect a student's ability to participate/perform in class.

Physical access to a class is the first barrier a student with a mobility impairment may face, but it is not the only accessibility concern. An unshoveled sidewalk, lack of reliable transportation, or mechanical problems with a wheelchair can easily cause a student to be late or absent.

Common accommodations for students with mobility impairments include priority registration, notetakers, accessible classroom/location/furniture, alternative ways of completing assignments, lab or library assistants, assistive computer technology, conveniently located parking, and time extensions for assignments and exams.