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Johns Hopkins University
Student Disability Services
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Baltimore, MD 21218
Phone: (410) 516-4720

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Office of Student Disability Services > Information for Faculty > Types of Disabilities > Physical Disabilities

Physical Disabilities

Terminology:

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:

Are 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 workstation. Consult with the student for specific requirements, then with DS 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
  • Note takers, 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
  • 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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