Teaching students with physical disabilities
Physical disabilities can be due to genetics or acquired at any time during a person’s life. Disabilities may include cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, amputation, spina bifida and neurological conditions such as muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.
Persons with physical disabilities may rely on assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, walkers, prosthetic limbs, braces and other orthotics for mobility. A variety of technology, such as computers, software and other equipment, is also valuable in supporting people with disabilities to be as independent as possible.
How can Student Accessibility Services (SAS) staff provide support?
Physical disabilities are individual. The most effective way of determining how a student is affected is to speak with him or her about his or her personal circumstances. Individual needs will often depend on the:
- Severity of the physical difficulty.
- Type of technologies and devices available.
- Effectiveness of the environment in supporting a barrier-free design.
Student Accessibility Services (SAS) staff therefore needs to encourage students to choose course loads they will be able to manage successfully while meeting the requirements and timelines of the course.
What can teaching staff do to offer assistance?
Several measures can be taken to ensure accessibility is maintained and encouraged in classroom settings:
- Preferential seating position and faculty attention to classroom setup and accessibility are beneficial for promoting accessibility and maximum mobility to individuals with disabilities.
- Providing clear directions, including distance, project expectations and details about the physical environment.
- Faculty sensitivity for students relying on accessible transit or attendant service is important, as this may affect the student’s classroom attendance.
Assessing an individual’s program suitability and needs should be addressed early so appropriate arrangements can be put in place for students by the beginning of the semester.