1. There are many different types of mobility limitations, with varying functions and needs.  Some of these are Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Paraplegia and Quadriplegia.  Some students using wheelchairs are totally independent, while others do need a great deal of assistance.

  2. One of the biggest difficulties is getting to class.  Electric wheelchairs often break down and, along with manual chairs, are subject to flat tires.  The weather presents problems, too.  Wheelchairs get stuck in the snow, electric batteries can freeze and go dead, belts will become wet and slide -- all of which leave the student stranded.  Even students who have pushers may not make it to class on time because the pushers may not show up, and it is hard to get a push on short notice.  It is also difficult to get a pusher for a special unscheduled push, i.e., an appointment with a professor.

  3. Some students are unable to take notes or are not able to keep up with a rapid lecture.  Therefore, the student may rely upon another student to take notes.  You might also have copies of your lecture outlines made for that student.

  4. Teaching podiums in lecture halls are sometimes inaccessible to students using wheelchairs because of stairs.  In this case, try to stop by and see how the student is doing, in case they are unable to see you after class.  Also, some students are unable to come down to hear the lecture or see the blackboard, so keep this in mind and try to make sure you speak loudly enough, and write big enough.

  5. Give thought to structuring lab experiences for someone in a wheelchair.  If the student's arm/hand mobility is limited, could she/he participate in such an experience on a "buddy system" with another student doing the active experience portion of the exercise?

  6. Exams are difficult for some students.  They may not be able to write as fast as the other students so that the time limit is not appropriate.  You may want to see if they would want to take an exam in some other way.  Examples:  Oral exam, exams out of class (in teacher's office), take-home, typing of answers, T.A. or someone else writing under dictation from the student.

  7. The student with lower body mobility problems only is just like any other student sitting down.  Don't assume there will be difficulties encountered.

  8. The most important thing for an instructor to remember is that each student using a wheelchair has different needs and the instructor should become aware of these needs as soon as she/he learns of a student using a wheelchair in the class.

  9. If you have any questions about any of the information presented above, call the Student Accessibility Center at 229-6287, stop by Mitchell Hall Room 112, or e-mail Victoria Groser at

Last updated April 4, 2002