A mobility impairment is the partial or total loss of the function of a body part. This type of impairment usually affects one or more limbs. Students with this condition may experience muscle weakness, poor stamina, a lack of muscle control, or total paralysis and require the use of a wheelchair.
Students use wheelchairs as a result of a variety of disabilities including spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, post-polio, multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis, quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputation, and muscular dystrophy. Wheelchairs come in a variety of sizes and styles, with many types of optional attachments available, and are either manual or electric powered.
Access is one of the major concerns of the student who uses a wheelchair. The student must learn routes to and from classes and across campus that do not present barriers. A barrier may be a staircase, a curb, a narrow walkway, a heavy door, an elevator door that has no delay mechanism (one that is too fast), a vehicle blocking a curb cut or ramp, a sign in the middle of what would otherwise be a wide enough walkway, etc.
Theater-type classrooms may present difficulties unless there is a large enough flat floor space in the front or rear of the room for a wheelchair to park (there must also be an entrance to and from that level). Classrooms with tables (provided there is an under-table clearance of at least 30") are more accessible to students in wheelchairs than rooms with standard classroom desks. It is better if the tables and chairs are movable rather than stationary.
In making individual accommodations for students with wheelchairs, one should keep in mind that needs vary greatly. Students in electric or manual wheelchairs have disabilities, which vary in degree from minor upper body paralysis (including limited use of hands and arms) to total immobility.