Mobility Impairments


Generally, there are two types of physical disabilities which affect mobility:

  • Orthopaedic disabilities involve a deformity of the skeletal system. The impairment can be the result of a congenital anomaly (ie. club foot, Spina Bifida), the result of disease (ie. Muscular Dystrophy, Arthritis), or the result of trauma or accident (ie. amputation).
  • Neurological disabilities involve the nervous system affecting the ability to move, use or control certain parts of the body. Such impairments can be the result of a congenital anomaly (ie. Cerebral Palsy), the result of disease (ie. Poliomyelitis), or the result of an accident (ie. spinal cord injury, head trauma).

Some physical disabilities which impact mobility impairment include:

  • multiple sclerosis
  • celebral palsy
  • spina bifida
  • spinal cord injury

Academic Accommodations

Some of the most commonly provided academic accommodations to students with mobility impairments include:

  • access to adaptive technology, assistive devices and/or a scribe or notetaker
  • allowance of break periods as needed for rest, taking medication and toileting
  • ergonomically designed seating/furnishings
  • advance book/reading lists
  • preferential seating
  • access to all learning activities and services
  • provision of extended time for tests and exams. The amount of extra time is determined by the disability support office.
  • reduced course load
  • early access to timetable for transportation purposes
  • punctuality should not be penalized where mobility is a factor
  • attendant services (funded through MOH)

Educational Impacts and Strategies

A common problem to students with mobility impairments is fatigue and pain. They may have to expend more energy for the routines of daily living and so consideration should be given to their expenditure of energy in the classroom and surrounding environment. Pain and the adverse side effects of medication can be significant detractors to learning.

College staff can assist in ensuring that the physical environment is barrier-free. This means that a person can move around an environment without assistance..

There are no instructional strategies that are specific to persons with mobility impairments. The following suggestions will enhance the learning experience for the student:

  • locate equipment and supplies in close proximity to the student
  • if the classroom is inaccessible or in a remote location request a change
  • if the student uses an attendant, speak to the student, not the attendant
  • choose field trips and activities that are accessible to the student with a mobility impairment
  • be aware of the fire evacuation procedures for students with mobility impairments
  • students who are mobility impaired may use adaptive equipment. It is not necessary for faculty to have an in depth knowledge of this equipment as the student is the expert. Common pieces of equipment include: computers with speech synthesizers, adapted keyboards and keyboard guards, tape recorders, specialized sotware.
  • work closely with the Disability Services office to understand the educational implications of the student’s disability

Points of Etiquette

  • Always ask a wheelchair user if he or she would like assistance before you help.
  • Check desk height to make sure the wheelchair fits comfortably underneath.
  • If conversation lasts more than a few minutes, consider sitting down or kneeling to get yourself on the same level as the wheelchair user.
  • Be aware of a wheelchair user’s capabilities. Some users can walk with aid and use wheelchairs to save energy and move quickly.
  • Don’t hang or lean on a person’s wheelchair because it is part of the wheelchair user’s personal body space.
  • Do not move the wheelchair without the user’s consent.
  • Give clear directions, including distance, weather conditions and physical obstacles that may hinder the wheelchair user’s travel when conducting field trips.