Mobility and physical impairments

Key support actions

  • Consider physical access in choosing locations for any kind of student interaction
  • Accommodate human support workers
  • Consider additional time requirements for students with speech impairments in discussion activities
  • Handouts in electronic formats in advance

What are mobility issues and physical impairments?

Students with physical impairments may have difficulties with mobility, manual dexterity and speech.

Some would use a wheelchair all or some of the time. They might need support with personal care. Some physical impairments are fluctuating in impact and, as with all disabled students, it is important to talk to the student about what is most useful to them.

How do mobility issues impact on study?

A student with a mobility issue or physical impairment may have difficulty with managing the distance between different learning activities, with carrying materials, notetaking, practicals and may take longer to ask or answer questions.

Read the guidance from the Papworth Trust about working with students with speech impairments.

Many students with physical impairments may need a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan in case of an emergency and about which more information can be found on the University's Fire Safety page (sign in required).

Supporting and teaching students with physical impairments

Many principles of inclusive teaching are beneficial for students with physical impairments. Here are some particular examples:

  • Written feedback in an accessible format is useful as it avoids the student needing to write notes while discussing matters of relevance
  • Provision of lecture and supervision handouts in advance so any electronic notes can be made during the lecture/supervision
  • Extended library loans
  • Permission to record lectures
  • Reserved seating in lectures to ensure the student can find an accessible seat
  • Timetables to accommodate the time it takes to travel between different learning activities
  • Consistent timetables and locations for all teaching activities

These adjustments should be available to students with a physical impairment:

  • Regular meetings with tutors and Directors of Studies should be co-ordinated to review adjustments and ensure that a student's support requirements are being met
  • 24 hours' notice of change of venue whenever possible, given via an accessible format. This is to ensure the student can find the venue and arrange human support if necessary
  • Rest breaks may be needed due to fatigue. On occasion extended deadlines may also be required
  • Support with practicals which may include an assistant, additional assistance with set up
  • Preparation well in advance for fieldwork to ensure the field work is accessible and to enable the student to prepare

Human Support

Students with mobility issues and physical impairments may use a range of human support. This support, often known as Non-Medical Help, is usually funded through Disabled Students' Allowances, or the University's Reasonable Adjustments Fund or International Disabled Students' Fund. Support can be coordinated through the ADRC and may include note taking and/or recording and transcription.

The Equality Act (2010)

The Equality Act protects people with physical impairments when their impairment is substantial and long-term. In such cases, there will be a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments and not to treat less favourably.