EDUCATIONAL SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS WITH MOBILITY IMPAIRMENT
The movie They know how to do this in Germany – this is the story of a person using a wheelchair who lives in Poland and is faced with the barriers in this country. The movie is also about the obstacles created by the lack of disability awareness that actually comes to mind usually only at the end of human life when those who never thought of disability, may find themselves in such circumstances. It is an encouragement to design our physical environment wisely, to let it be much more friendly to everyone, straight from the beginning.
The movie Professional - shopping
Mobility impairment manifests itself in a variety of ways. This disability can limit the functioning of an entire body or some of its parts (hands, legs, spine). It can be either temporary or permanent. Mobility impairment can have various causes, such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, injuries in traffic accidents, muscular dystrophy.
In the process of studying, perosons with mobility impairment may find it difficult to:
- access and use university facilities
- move quickly between classrooms/buildings
- remain in one position over a long period of time, eg students with spine disorders can find it painful to spend long hours in class
- perform precise manual activities, eg students with hand impairment may find it difficult to take notes or participate fully in laboratory classes (unable to perform experiments).
You should bear in mind that living with mobility impairment may also mean problems in other areas, including speech and memory difficulties, problems with memory and processing information, perception difficulties and, last but not least, pain.
Educational support strategies
The following guidelines, if suitably applied and adjusted to the person’s individual requirements, will improve the quality of education offered to students with mobility impairment. In order to provide equal educational opportunities, the following conditions should be met:
Concerning coursework organisation:
- University facilities should be accessible to students using wheelchairs or crutches. If the facility cannot be accessed by the student, classes should be suitably relocated, eg they should be held on the ground floor.
- Classrooms should be accessible to everyone. Make sure that the seats and equipment are arranged in such a way that it allows students using wheelchairs or crutches to enter the room and move around it freely. Make sure there are no heavy doors or high thresholds in the classroom and find out how long it takes to reach the building.
- The student should be given enough time to move between classrooms/buildings.
- If the student has speech difficulties, allow him or her to speak at their own pace. It is important that you devote enough time and effort to understanding his or her contribution and that you do not finish the sentence for the student. If you fail to understand the student, ask him or her to repeat.
- The student with hand impairment should be provided with an assistant to help him or her to perform tasks they find impossible to do themselves (eg laboratory work). Make sure that the assistant works under the direction of the student and that he or she does not carry out the tasks or interpret the results for the student.
- If the student finds it difficult to take notes, he or she should be allowed to tape record the class and/or be provided with teaching materials well in advance to enable his or her active participation.
Concerning exams and credits
Exams and tests should be adjusted according to the individual requirements of the student and type of disability. The form of examination should be determined well before the exam. This may involve the following:
- The student that has difficulty writing quickly and legibly may be allowed more time when taking a written exam.
- The student that has difficulty writing may be allowed to use a computer in the exam or to ask for assistance.
- The student that has difficulty speaking may be allowed to take a written exam instead of an oral one.
- When speaking to a student in a wheelchair, assume a position that allows you to maintain eye contact. Avoid standing straight in front of the student or looking at him or her from above.
- Bear in mind that you should neither impose your help nor push a wheelchair without the consent of its user as this may violate his or her personal space. If you think your assistance is necessary, ask the person involved whether he or she needs it.
- Nowak-Adamczyk D., Perdeus-Białek M., Szczocarz U. (red.), Wyrównywanie szans. Osoby niepełnosprawne na studiach przyrodniczych [Equal Opportunities. Students with Disability Majoring in Natural Sciences], Kraków 2011.
- Educational materials coming from the handbook for academic teaching staff developed under the DARE 2 project (www.DareProject.eu).