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Physical Disabilities

More than 1,220 identified students with disabilities enrolled at the College during the fall 2010 semester - nearly 5 percent of the total credit enrollment and more than twice the number enrolled in fall 1991. Most of the students have learning disabilities (50 percent), followed by attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, and psychiatric and physical disabilities. Some disabilities are readily visible; more frequently, they are not and may be difficult to identify. Students may also have multiple disabilities.

Characteristics, considerations, instructional strategies, and possible accommodations for different disabilities:

Physical Disabilities


A variety of physical disabilities result from congenital conditions, accidents, or progressive neuromuscular diseases. These disabilities may include conditions such as spinal cord injury (paraplegia or quadriplegia), cerebral palsy, spina bifida, amputation, muscular dystrophy, cardiac conditions, cystic fibrosis, paralysis, polio/post polio, and stroke.


Characteristics (may include)

Highly individual; the same diagnosis can affect students very differently.


Considerations and Instructional Strategies

  • When talking with a person who uses a wheelchair, try to converse at eye level; sit down if a chair is available.
  • Make sure the classroom layout is accessible and free from obstructions.
  • If a course is taught in a laboratory setting, provide an accessible work station. Consult with the student for specific requirements, then with DSS if additional assistance or equipment is needed.
  • If a student also has a communication disability, take time to understand the person. Repeat what you understand, and when you don’t understand, say so.
  • Ask before giving assistance, and wait for a response. Listen to any instructions the student may give; the student knows the safest and most efficient way to accomplish the task at hand.
  • Let the student set the pace when walking or talking.
  • A wheelchair is part of a student’s personal space; do not lean on, touch, or push the chair, unless asked.
  • When field trips are a part of course requirements, make sure accessible transportation is available.
  • Ask the student if he or she will need assistance during an emergency evacuation, and assist in making a plan if necessary.
Accommodations (may include)  
  •  Accessible location for the classroom and place for faculty to meet with student
  •  Adaptive seating in classrooms
  •  Notetakers, tape recorders, laptop computers or copies of instructor and/or classmate’s notes
  •  Assistive computer equipment/software: voice activated word processing, word prediction, keyboard and/or mouse modification
  •  Test accommodations: extended time, separate location, scribes, access to adapted computers
  •  Some flexibility with deadlines if assignments require access to community resources
  •  Adjustable lab or drafting tables
  •  Lab assistant or classroom aide—MUST BE AUTHORIZED AND ARRANGED BY DSS
  •  Accessible parking in close proximity to the building
  •  Activities that allow the student to participate within his or her physical capabilities, yet still meet course objectives
  •  Taped texts
  •  Advance planning for field trips to ensure accessibility


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Montgomery County, MD


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