Teaching Strategies for Mobility Impaired Students


There is a range of inclusive teaching strategies that can assist all students to learn but there are some specific strategies that are useful in teaching a group which includes students with visual impairments.

In considering alternative forms of assessment, equal opportunity, not a guaranteed outcome, is the objective. You are not expected to lower standards to accommodate students with a disability, but rather are required to give them a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.

First Day

  • Include a statement in your course syllabus regarding accommodation issues for students with disabilities. See the Suggested Disability Statement for course syllabi.
  • Invite students to self-identify on the first day of class by making a public statement such as: "Please contact me to discuss disability accommodations."
  • Have copies of the syllabus and reading assignments ready no less than six weeks prior to the beginning of classes so documents are available for timely transcription into alternative formats.
  • If necessary, arrange for a room change to an accessible classroom before the term begins.

Lectures and Other Teaching Sessions

  • Keep instructions brief and uncomplicated as much as possible. When repeating instructions, repeat exactly without paraphrasing.
  • Clearly define course requirements, the dates of exams, and when assignments are due. Provide advance notice of any changes.
  • Present lecture information in a visual format (e.g., chalkboard, overheads, PowerPoint slides, handouts, etc.).
  • Use more than one way to demonstrate or explain information.
  • When teaching, state objectives, review previous lessons and summarize periodically.
  • Assist the student with finding an effective notetaker from the class.
  • Be flexible with deadlines if assignments are held up by the document conversion process.
  • Provide hand-outs (preferably electronically) in advance of lectures and seminars, and allow audio-taping where possible to assist review of notes.
  • Ensure key notices (e.g., regarding cancellations or re-scheduled classes), are also announced in ways that are accessible to mobility impaired students.
  • Keep teaching environment consistent and uncluttered, and allow students to sit closer to resources if necessary.
  • In lecture/discussion classes, take care over seating arrangements and encourage people to take turns to speak. Work with the student on strategies to help them participate fully and find out if they wish any other adjustments, such as people introducing themselves before speaking.
  • Make field trip arrangements early and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility). Provide plenty of warning so a personal assistant or adaptive equipment can be arranged as appropriate for laboratory work and field trips.
  • If possible, try not to seat wheelchair users in the back row. Move a desk or rearrange seating at a table so the student is part of the regular classroom seating.
  • Height of tables should permit wheelchair access.
  • Individual introduction to laboratory or computer equipment may be helpful
  • Flexible delivery, including the use of electronic media, will be particularly helpful for students who need to be absent occasionally.
  • Be understanding about transport problems, which may cause absence or lateness or the need for extra time to move between classes.
  • Consult the student about access issues and preferred use of assistive technology before making special arrangements for teaching rooms and equipment.
  • Permit tape-recording of lectures and seminars to help students catch up with any sessions they have to miss.
  • Work placements and field trips need good advance planning to ensure success. (In a very few cases an alternative may need to be arranged, but this should not normally be necessary).
  • Allow extra time for processing notes, locating resources or transcription of materials.

Writing Assignments and Examinations

  • Provide assistance with proofreading written work. Stress organization and ideas rather than mechanics when grading in-class writing assignments.
  • Encourage the use of spell-check and grammar-assistive devices when appropriate to the course.
  • Make sure accommodations are in place for in-class written work (e.g., allowing the student to use a scribe, to use assistive computer technology, or to complete the assignment outside of class).
  • Examinations and other forms of assessment — adjustments might include a separate room, use of a scribe or computer equipment.

General Ideas

  • Break information into small steps while instructing on new tasks.
  • For students needing other academic assistance, remind them of campus services such as the Writing Center, and the Academic Support Center.
  • Providing review or study sheets for exams is helpful.
  • Allow time for clarification of directions and essential information.
  • Be flexible with deadlines. Assignments that require library work or access to sites off-campus will consume more time for a student with a mobility impairment. Students with chronic and medicated pain may need extended time or additional explanations of material covered in class or pending assignments.
  • Due to the architectural barriers, the challenges involving public transportation, and environmental conditions such as unshoveled sidewalks and mechanical difficulties with wheelchairs, students might be late getting to class. Patience is greatly appreciated in these circumstances.
  • When talking with a wheelchair user, if at all possible, speak to them at eye level by sitting in a chair next to them, as opposed to standing over them and looking down.
  • Because of lifelong experience, the student will most likely know the most efficient and safe way to handle a variety of situations that you perceive to be challenging to them. Ask before giving them any kind of assistance, and see what kind of response they provide for you.
  • A student's wheelchair is considered a part of their own personal space, and should not be leaned against or touched by anybody else. In addition, it should always be considered a personal-assistance device rather than an object that somebody is "confined" to.
  • Know your policies and procedures for fire drills and warnings. In case of a fire, students who use wheelchairs need to be taken to the closest stairwells, as the rescue protocol for DPS and the fire fighters will be to go to the stairwells first for a fire call.
  • Provide extra time to allow student to speak or respond during class. Let the student take the lead and set the pace regarding walking or talking.
  • Giving flexibility to deadlines is important. Students with mobility disorders benefit from this flexibility because of the longer duration that is needed of them to complete basic tasks such as getting around the library and planning transportation to get to the resources required for the assignment.
  • Make instructional materials available in text form on FerrisConnect.
  • When in doubt about how to assist the student, ask him or her as privately as possible without drawing attention to the student or the disability.

Email Disabilities Services at [email protected] for general ideas to help individual students.