What are Mobility Impairments?
Mobility Impairments are most often caused by conditions present at birth, or as a result of an illness or physical injury. The abilities of students with mobility impairments vary widely depending on the age on onset, nature of the disease or injury, and response to present treatment. Mobility limitations may fluctuate with periods of remission and exacerbation. The best source of information regarding the student’s functions and limitations is the student him/herself.
How can the professor help?
A student with a mobility impairment may or may not want assistance in a given situation, so ask the student before giving assistance and wait for a response. Listen to the instructions a student gives you because through their experience, the student most likely knows the safest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand. Be considerate of the extra time a student may need to speak or move, and allow the student to set his/her pace.
A wheelchair should be viewed as a personal-assistance device rather than something the student is "confined" to. It is also considered part of the student’s personal space, therefore, do not lean on or touch the chair and do not push the chair unless asked to do so.
Students with mobility impairments may also want to sit near the door so they do not have to weave through crowded aisles. Students who use wheelchairs will need adequate floor space so they can park without blocking exits and the flow of traffic. Some students may prefer to get out of their wheelchair and sit at a desk. Using a wheelchair on a part-time basis does not mean that a student is "faking" a disability. It is usually a means to conserve energy and move about more quickly.
Classes that are taught in a laboratory setting may need special modifications of the workstations to permit a student to work adequately with the materials and access the lab in a safe manner.
If the class involves field trips, special efforts should be made to ensure that the destination is wheelchair accessible and accessible enough for students with other mobility impairments.
Each student’s functional limitations may differ, thus, when appropriate, the professor should be flexible with deadlines that require a student to access libraries or off campus sites. Grant the student the same anonymity as other students in the class and do not point out the alternate arrangements.