5.9 Understanding Neuro-Muscular Disabilities

Neuro-muscular disabilities result from the partial or total loss of the function of some part of the body that impedes mobility. Students with mobility challenges may experience muscle weakness, poor stamina, a lack of muscle control, or total paralysis, and possibly require the use of a wheelchair.

Access is a major concern of the student who uses a wheelchair. The student must learn routes to and from classes and across campus that do not present barriers. A barrier may be a staircase, a curb, a narrow walkway, a heavy door, an elevator door that has no delay mechanism, a vehicle blocking a curb cut or ramp, or a sign in the middle of what would otherwise be a wide enough walkway. OSWD is committed to working with students to remove access barriers on the Gallaudet campus.

Theater-type classrooms may present difficulties unless there is a large enough flat floor space in the front or rear of the room for a wheelchair to park, and there must also be an entrance on that level. Classrooms with tables are more accessible to students in wheelchairs; it is better if the tables and chairs are movable rather than stationary.

  • A person with mobility challenges may use special assistive devices with extra space or power requirements.
  • Faculty with an inaccessible office can offer to meet the student in a different location; ask OSWD to facilitate arrangements.
  • OSWD may request a class location change through the Registrar's Office to accommodate students in wheelchairs.
  • If breaks between classes are short, less than ten minutes, it may be difficult for the student to get to class on time.
  • Adjustable tables and adaptive chairs are available for classroom use through OSWD.
  • If a field trip is involved in your course work, ask the student to participate in the planning to make the experience accessible.
  • In lab classes it may be necessary to make some modification of the workstation. Considerations include under-counter knee clearance, horizontal working reach, and aisle widths. Once a modification has been made, subsequent students can usually use it.
  • Help maintain wide aisles and uncluttered work areas.
  • Give assistance only if the student asks for it.
  • Check emergency exits and routes and provide assistance as necessary.
  • Remember that a wheelchair is part of the person's body space.