Students use mobility devices as a result of a variety of disabilities including spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, post-polio syndrome, multiple sclerosis, severe arthritis, quadriplegia, paraplegia, amputation, muscular dystrophy, and so on. A student may use one type of device exclusively, or may have a combination of mobility devices depending on the transportation needs. Wheelchairs come in a variety of styles and sizes, with many types of optional attachments available. Wheelchairs are either manual or powered (electric). Some individuals who use a wheelchair can also stand or walk short distances and can transfer to a regular desk. Scooters are another mobility device for individuals who have difficulty walking. In general, a person who uses a scooter can transfer to a regular desk in the classroom and park the scooter outside the door. Walkers, canes, and crutches are also mobility devices which allow an individual a greater range of travel.
Most students who use mobility devices will ask for assistance if they need it. Don't assume automatically that assistance is required. Offer assistance, but do not insist. What looks awkward to you may be the individual's normal way of accomplishing a task and they are confident in their own ability and independence.
When talking to a student in a wheelchair, if the conversation continues for more than a few minutes, sit down, kneel, or squat if convenient so that you are on eye level with the student. Remember that a wheelchair or other device is part of the person's body space. Don't lean on a chair or scooter, and don't move crutches or canes without first asking permission.
Access is one of the major concerns of the student with a mobility impairment. The student must learn routes to and from classes and across campus that do not present barriers. A barrier may be stairs, a curb with no curb cut or ramp, a narrow walkway, a heavy door, an elevator door that has no delay mechanism or one that is too fast, a sign in the middle of a pathway, etc. In addition, unpredictable barriers such as a vehicle blocking a curb cut, construction equipment blocking a path, an elevator that doesn't work, crowded hallways, etc. may make traversing the campus and even greater challenge. The amount of time required to maneuver around campus via accessible paths may dictate how the student can schedule classes.
NOTE: Campus accessibility maps will soon be available under the "Access" heading of the Student Disability Services main page.
Since breaks between classes are short, the student with a mobility impairment may frequently be a few minutes late. In such a case, it is appropriate to discuss the situation with the student and seek solutions. Most students will be aware of time restrictions and will schedule their classes accordingly. However, it is not always possible to leave enough time between classes.
Another barrier may be the arrangement of the classroom itself. Theater type classrooms may present difficulties unless there is a large enough flat floor space in the front or rear of the room, and an accessible entrance to that space. Classrooms with tables are more accessible to students in wheelchairs than rooms with standard classroom desks. However, the tables must have at least a 32" under-desk clearance for a wheelchair user to be able to access the tables. Classrooms must have enough clear space to allow a wheelchair, walker, or scooter to enter the room and maneuver around. The Student Disability Services office staff reviews classroom accessibility each semester for each student with mobility impairment. Some classes may be moved to a more accessible location if necessary. Other classrooms may be equipped with special tables that provide sufficient under-desk clearance.
If a class involves field work or field trips, discuss with the student in advance what kinds of arrangements need to be made so that the student can participate in the class experience. Any field experience site must meet the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If the university is providing the transportation for the field experience, accessible transportation must be provided for students with mobility impairment.
Classes in physical education and recreation can almost always be modified so that the student with a mobility impairment can participate. The KSU Department of Health, Physical Education and Sport Science can provide information on adaptive physical education programming.
Most of the laboratory facilities at KSU have been modified to provide appropriate physical access for individuals with disabilities. Under-desk clearance, countertop height, horizontal working reach, and aisle widths are all within the requirements of the law. In some situations, additional adjustments may be needed or additional equipment provided. The Student Disability Services office will work with the laboratory coordinators to arrange any special needs as they are identified.
For those students who may not be able to participate in a laboratory class without the assistance of an aide, the student should be allowed to benefit from the actual lab work to the fullest extent possible. The Student Disability Services office will contract with a lab assistant who is familiar with the lab situation to work with the student individually. The student gives all instructions to the lab assistant who performs the actual physical manipulations of the lab.
KSU has some adaptive equipment to assist individuals with mobility impairment.
- Speech recognition computer software - allows an individual to input information to a computer without using a manually operated device such as a keyboard or mouse.
- Shielded keyboard - provides a shield over the keys on which the individual can rest his/her hand or arm, and increases accuracy if typing with a stick.