Physical activity and mobility may be impaired by a number of permanent or intermittent conditions such as cerebral palsy, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease and repetitive strain injury (RSI). Back or neck injuries may also affect general mobility. A stroke may result in temporary or permanent loss of feeling or movement in part of the body, frequently on one side. Speech and vision may also be affected in students with conditions such as cerebral palsy and MS or those who have suffered a stroke.
Coordination and balance may be mildly or severely affected by any of these conditions. Movement may be impaired by muscle spasms, numbness or pain, and as a result, writing and the manipulation of equipment may be difficult. Some students use wheelchairs to enhance their mobility whilst others will walk with the aid of callipers, crutches or walking sticks. Some students may suffer chronic fatigue, and others, extreme day-to-day energy fluctuations.
Physical disability may also result from acquired brain injury (ABI). Increasing numbers of students are returning to university following vehicle or sporting accidents in which they have sustained some degree of brain injury. Resulting impairment may affect speech, vision or coordination; the injury may also result in personality disorders or depression.
In providing accommodations for students with physical impairments, remember that some conditions are characterised by periods of remission: the disability will not always be visible and not always impact their capacity to learn.