Mobility/Physical Impairments

A wide range of conditions may limit a student’s mobility and/or energy. These may include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and amputations or other severe physical injuries. Mobility disabilities may be temporary or permanent, and vary from student to student. Some students may use canes, crutches, braces, prostheses, scooters, or wheelchairs to assist with mobility. Perhaps the biggest obstacle may be getting to class on time. Lateness or absences from class may be due to transportation problems, inclement weather, elevator or equipment breakdown, or a side effect of the disability itself (such as fatigue).

Suggested Modifications and Accommodations

  • Students who have upper body limitations may need notetakers, extended exam time, or a scribe/word processor to assist with exams.
  • Students with upper body weakness may not be able to raise their hands to participate in class discussion. Establish eye contact with the students and call on them when they indicate that they wish to contribute.
  • A wheelchair or scooter is part of a student’s “personal space”. No one should lean on a chair, touch it, or push it unless asked.
  • Whenever you are talking one-to-one with a student in a wheelchair or scooter, you yourself should be seated so the student does not have to peer upward at you.
  • Special seating arrangements may be necessary to meet student needs. Students may require special chairs, lowered tables on which to write, or spaces for wheelchairs or scooters. In laboratory courses, students who use wheelchairs may need lower lab tables to accommodate their chairs and allow for the manipulation of tools or other equipment.
  • Instructors in courses requiring field trips or internships need to work with students and the CSD to be sure the students’ needs are met. For example, students may need assistance with transportation, special seating, or frequent rest-breaks.
  • Not all mobility impairments are constant and unchanging; some students experience exacerbations or relapses requiring bed rest or hospitalization. In most cases, students are able to make up the incomplete work, but they may need extra time.
  • Be prepared for a change of classroom or building if no other solution is possible.


The websites listed below are for informational purposes only. Inclusion on this list does not constitute an endorsement by the CSD.

Cerebral Palsy Guide
This national organization provides free educational information, financial options and emotional support for parents and children affected by cerebral palsy.