Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments range in severity from limitations on stamina to paralysis. Some mobility impairments are caused by conditions present at birth, while others are the result of illness or physical injury. Injuries cause different types of mobility impairments, depending on what area of the body is affected.

Paralysis of the extremities and trunk caused by a neck injury. Students with quadriplegia have limited or no use of their arms and hands and often use electric wheelchairs.
Paralysis of the lower extremities and the lower trunk caused by an injury to the mid-back. Students often use a manual wheelchair and have full movement of arms and hands.

Brief Descriptions of Some Causes of Mobility Impairments

The removal of one or more limbs and is sometimes caused by trauma or another condition.
The inflammation of the body's joints, causing pain, swelling, and difficulty in body movement.
Back disorders
can limit a student's ability to sit, stand, walk, bend, or carry objects. They include, but are not limited to, degenerative disk disease, scoliosis, and herniated disks
Cerebral palsy
The result of damage to the brain prior to, during, or shortly after birth. It can prevent or inhibit walking and cause a lack of muscle coordination, spasms, and speech difficulty.
Neuromuscular disorders
include a variety of diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and ataxia, that result in degeneration and atrophy of muscle or nerve tissues.

Common Accommodations for Students with Mobility Impairments

  • Priority registration
  • Note-takers
  • Accessible classroom/location/furniture
  • Alternative ways of completing assignments
  • Lab or library assistants
  • Assistive computer technology
  • Exam modifications
  • Conveniently located parking

Instructional Strategies for Students with Mobility Impairments

The following strategies are suggested to enhance the accessibility of course instruction, materials, and activities. They are general strategies designed to support individualized, reasonable accommodations.

  • If necessary, arrange for a room change before the term begins.
  • 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 regular classroom seating.
  • Make arrangements early for field trips and ensure that accommodations will be in place on the given day (e.g., transportation, site accessibility).
  • 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).
  • Be flexible with deadlines: assignments that require library work or access to off-campus sites will consume more time for a student with a mobility impairment.