(Includes definition, how disability affects participation, and helpful strategies.)
According to the ADA Compliance Guide, a physical impairment includes "any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, (Appendix 1, p. 3)" Mobility and hand functioning are examples of two impairments that may affect a student's classroom performance.
How physical disabilities may affect student participation:
Students may have difficulty getting to or from class (i.e. transportation difficulties)
For students with issues of hand function, increased time may be needed for in and out of class writing assignments.
As a result of the extra physical effort required to perform tasks, some students may become easily fatigued.
Some students may be taking medication that adversely affects their concentration and performance.
Helpful strategies for instructing students:
Students with physical disabilities and students who use wheelchairs may likely consider themselves to have full and mobile lives. It is helpful to view the student with a physical disability as you would any other student. Wheelchairs and other devices are tools to mobility, they are not extensions of the student.
Once in the classroom, you may have concerns for making the facilities more accessible to a student with a physical disability. Share these concerns with the student and elicit his/her input.
If you are in doubt about how to be most helpful, it is appropriate to ask privately if anything else is needed.
Where possible, arrange seating so as to fully include the student in class discussions and activities.
Provide a list of written assignments as soon as possible.
Give assignments both orally and in written format to avoid confusion.
From a student with a physical disability, Spring 1997.....
"Teachers were all very helpful and willing to meet my needs - very professional."