Mobility Impairment

Mobility impairment is a broad category used to describe a partial or total loss of function of some body part.  Impairment of these types may appear as muscle weakness, poor stamina, lack of muscle control and/or partial or total paralysis.  The two broad categories defining mobility impairment are -- Neurological Impairment and Orthopedic Impairment.

Neurological Impairments are due to the lack of complete development or injury to the nervous system such as:

  • Cerebral impairments which include head injury, cerebral palsy, Friedreich’s Ataxia, hemiparesis, hemiplegia and multiple sclerosis.
  • Spinal Cord impairment which include Guillain-Barre syndrome, neuroblastoma spinal tumor, paraplegia, polio-caused paralysis, quadriplegia, and spina bifida.

Orthopedic Impairments are physical impairments which interfere with the normal function of the bones, joints, or muscles to such extent that special arrangements must be made in order that they may gain access to facilities and/or programs.  Included among these would be students who have rheumatoid arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, osteogenesis imperfecta, and those students who have had a limb removed.

Conditions vary, impairments vary.  There are intermittent flare-ups in some cases, severe enough to keep the student from class, and periods of remissions, where the student seems to have no impairment of functions at all.  Therefore, the need for adaptation varies among individuals.  Here are a set of general guidelines that have been suggested when working with students with these impairments.

Students are not “confined” to a wheelchair.  He/she is a wheelchair user.  The wheelchair is an extension of the student.  Some wheelchair users can walk but use their chair for greater mobility, to conserve energy or to move around quicker.  Most students who use a wheelchair will ask for assistance when they need it.  Never push or grab a wheelchair without permission.  Offer assistance, but do not automatically assume that assistance is needed.

  • Often it is difficult for a student using a wheelchair to quickly travel the distance between classes.  The most accessible route may NOT be the most direct route.  It is virtually impossible for a student in a wheelchair to get from one building to another in the 10 minutes allowed between classes.  The class may need to be moved to another location if the student is consistently late to class because of the lack of accessible routes.  The OVDSS, in conjunction with the department chair, professor and school dean can assist with this task.
  • Words such as “walking” or “running” are appropriate.  Sensitivity to these words is not necessary.
  • Students who have limited use of their hands write slower than able-bodied students, may tire quickly while writing or may be unable to write.  Tape recorders and/or note-takers may be useful in assisting these students.
  • Equipment used in classrooms and courses MUST be accessible to students with motor impairments.  An assistant or lab partner, who functions as the student’s hands and/or legs, may be needed.  If the course requires the student to travel to other locations, as adapted vehicle must be provided.
  • Laboratory stations too high for wheelchair users to reach or transfer to, or with insufficient under-counter knee clearance, may be modified or they may be replaced by portable stations.  (Clearance for wheelchairs should be a minimum of 27 ½ inches high and 32 inches wide.)
  • Most people with disabilities do not mind talking frankly about their disabilities.  Understanding and awareness of the facts promote acceptance and integration.
  • The faculty/staff member should consider the accessibility of his/her office.  In some cases arrangements may have to be made to meet students at a more convenient location.

The following accommodations may be needed if a student has a hand-function limitation that presents difficulties in in-class writing assignments and taking written tests:

  • Encourage use of a note taker or tape recorder.
  • Team the student with a laboratory partner or assistant.
    • Arrange for alternate methods of recording answers, such as typing or taping.
    • Arrange for proctor to assist for manipulation of test materials, marking exams, and writing numbers and/or symbols as directed by students..
    • Allow in-class written assignments to be completed out of class with the use of a scribe or other appropriate aid, if necessary.

Extra time with tests as well as for assignments (due to slow writing speed).