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Office of Disability Support Services
Faculty Handbook

Mobility and Dexterity Impairments

General Information

Most mobility limitations result from a broad range of neuromuscular and orthopedic disabilities that produce variations in the nature and extent of the remaining physical functions. It is wise not to generalize with regard to specific limitations of persons with such disabilities. Functional abilities vary not only among the disabilities, but also among students with the same disability. General conditions affecting the degree of limitation may include onset time, progression rate, disorder, level and extent of injury, and response to treatment. While some disabilities are progressive in nature, such as muscular dystrophy, other disabilities are not. Limitations associated with some disabilities fluctuate with periods of remission and exacerbation, whereas others my improve with time and therapy.

Note: using a wheelchair some of the time does not mean an individual is faking a disability. For those who walk with difficulty, a wheelchair is often a means to conserve energy or move about more quickly.

The student with the disability is the best source of information regarding the disability and accompanying specific limitations. Upon request ODSS will provide information about various disabilities.

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Mobility Impairments

Access and timely travel are the major concerns of students who use wheelchairs, crutches, canes, walkers, braces or other mobility aids. These students must learn routes across campus that do not present barriers (stairs, curbs, narrow walkways, heavy doors, and elevators). A ten-minute break between classes poses a realistic difficulty for students who have mobility limitations. Faculty members need to be flexible, however, if a student's tardiness becomes chronic it is appropriate to discuss the situation and seek solutions that may include better planning on the part of the student.

  • If a classroom or faculty office is inaccessible, the college will assist in finding an accessible location.

  • If a class involves field work or field trips, ask the student to participate in the selection of sites and modes of transportation. The student and faculty member needs to consider alternative modes of transportation. ODSS may be able to assist with some suggestions.

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Hand and Arm Dexterity Impairments

Students may have hand and arm dexterity limitations alone or in conjunction with mobility limitations. Hand dexterity limitations have greater impact on academic performance than mobility limitations, but again the specific limitations will depend on the type and severity of the disability.

There are variations in the limitations for students with hand and arm dexterity impairment. Some students prefer aids such as tape recorders and/or note takers, while others choose to type their own papers using adapted keyboards or key guards. Most students require special test accommodations in the form of extra time or the use of a scribe or computer. 

Students with hand and arm limitations should be allowed and encouraged to participate to the fullest extent possible in laboratory classes. If the lab objective is to learn a procedural process and resulting reaction, as in a chemistry experiment, the objective can usually be achieved if the student has an aide or is paired with a classmate who can carry out the step-by-step instructions given by the student. In this way, the student with the hand and arm dexterity limitation is actively involved and will learn everything except how to physically manipulate the chemicals.

Lab Settings:

Students with hand and arm limitations should be allowed and encouraged to participate to the fullest extent possible in laboratory classes.  If the lab objective is to learn a procedural process and resulting reaction, as in a chemistry experiment, the objective can usually be achieved if the student has an aide or is paired with a classmate who can carry out the step-by-step instructions given by the student.  In this way, the student with the hand and arm dexterity limitation is actively involved and will learn everything except how to physically manipulate the chemicals. 

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Suggested Classroom Accommodations for Students with Mobility and Dexterity Impairments

Information regarding Instructor Memos

Specific accommodations will need to be individually tailored because these students will vary depending on the type and degree of their dexterity loss. Usually a combination of adaptive methods is the best approach.

  • When and where appropriate, the student should utilize Reader Services staff and facilities to administer tests or for in class assistance. Discuss arrangements early in the semester.
  • Use of note takers and taped lectures. NCR (carbonless paper) paper is available to the student through ODSS. If a student requires a note taker, it is the student's responsibility to provide the instructor with the carbonless paper. The instructor is to ask for a volunteer without disclosing the student's name, thus maintaining confidentiality. Arrangements to pick-up the notes from the instructor are to be made by the student.

Classes for exercise and recreation can almost always be modified for student participation.

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Test Adaptation and Administration
for Students with Mobility and Dexterity Impairments

  • Extended time for taking tests in a quiet place. Students must be scheduled five (5) business days in advance with Reader Services.
  • Student can schedule a scribe to record any answers for a test that cannot be marked by the individual.
  • Permit the use of a tape recorder for the verbal recording of answers on tests.

Tips for Positive Communication
with Students with Mobility and Dexterity Impairments

  • When conversing with someone in a wheelchair, sit at that person's eye level whenever possible.
  • Leaning on a wheel chair is tantamount to leaning on a person's shoulder - it is an invasion of personal space.
  • When discussing a student's disability, accommodation, and adaptation needs talk only about needs that are relevant to the successful completion of course work.
  • Refer to a person in a wheel chair as a wheelchair user, not as confined to a wheelchair.

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Office of Disability Support Services at Lansing Community College

Disability Support Services
Gannon Building - StarZone
Phone: (517) 483-1924
Additional contact information »