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Students with Mobility Impairments

There are a wide range of mobility impairments that might influence a student's ability to function in a college setting. Students with mobility concerns may have experienced spinal cord injuries, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, arthritis, amputation, paralysis and stroke. Some students may need to use canes, walkers or wheelchairs. Others may experience impairments to specific parts of their bodies (e.g., hands, wrists). Some students are coping with temporary injuries, such as broken bones or repetitive stress conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Students may have trouble handwriting class assignments and/or they may be unable to type. Some students may have difficulty getting quickly from class to class. A student's abilities could vary daily depending on the nature of the condition.

The Student Disability Service aims to provide faculty members with as much notice as possible if we find that a student with a mobility concern is going to be enrolled in your course. Typically, we will help to arrange a meeting between you and the student so that you can discuss the kinds of accommodations that will be most helpful without altering fundamental course requirements.

Common Types of Accommodations for Students with Mobility Impairments

  • Accessible locations for classrooms, labs and field trips.
  • Wide aisles and uncluttered work areas.
  • Adjustable height and tilt tables; equipment located within reach.
  • Notetakers, scribes and lab assistants.
  • Group lab assignments.
  • Extended time tests/exams or alternative testing arrangements.
  • Computers with speech input and alternative keyboards.
  • Course materials available in electronic format.
  • When speaking with a student in a wheelchair, sit down or move back to create a more comfortable angle for conversation.
  • A wheelchair or scooter is part of a student's "personal space." Please do not lean on a chair, touch it or push it unless asked.
  • For courses that include field trips or internships, please feel free to consult with the student and with the Student Disability Service to discuss any needs. We can help you identify and coordinate accommodations.
  • Please consult with the student and the Student Disability Service in advance to arrange a plan for how a student will gain assistance in the event of a fire drill or event that requires the fast evacuation of a class or a lab.

Adapted from DO-IT, University of Washington Mobility Impairment Resources

Student Disclosure

If a student identifies to you as having a disability and expresses a need for accommodations, please ask whether the student has also registered with the Student Disability Service so that we can draft formal accommodations letters. We recommend that you schedule an individual meeting with the student so that the two of you can identify accommodations that will enable the student to access the course material without altering fundamental course requirements. We have found that even when multiple students have the same disability, each student often benefits from different strategies for accessing the material.

Privacy Note

Swarthmore College respects the privacy of its students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act governs all student record information.

Additional Resource


Swarthmore College respects the privacy of its students.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs all student record information.