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Mobility Impairments

Overview and definition

Generally, there are two types of physical disabilities that affect mobility:

  • Orthopaedic disabilities: involve a deformity of the skeletal system. The impairment can be the result of a congenital anomaly (i.e. club foot, Spina-Bifida), the result of disease (i.e. Muscular Dystrophy, Arthritis) or the result of trauma or accident or amputation.
  • Neurological disabilities: involve the nervous system affecting the ability to move, use or control certain parts of the body. Such impairments can be the result of a congenital anomaly (i.e. Cerebral Palsy), the result of disease (i.e. Polio), or the result of an accident (i.e. spinal cord injury, head trauma).

Some of the more representative disabilities are:

  • Multiple Sclerosis: is the most common neurological disease affecting young adults. It is thought to be caused by a virus or an immune reaction, or a combination of both. Symptoms vary, but may include visual disturbances, slurred speech, fatigue, paralysis, muscle tremors, impaired gait, personality changes, respiratory infections, loss of coordination, loss of balance, numbness or prickling feelings in extremities and general malaise.
  • Cerebral Palsy: is a condition caused by damage to the brain before, during or after birth. It is chiefly characterized by motor disorder. It is not progressive nor is it considered curable, although physical therapy can be helpful in improving comfort and mobility.
  • Spina Bifida: is one of the most prevalent birth defects causing physical disability. It occurs in the spinal column when one or more vertebrae do not close during prenatal development. The condition varies, displaying few to many consequences, ranging from mild to serious in nature.
  • Spinal Cord injuries: are most commonly the result of trauma from sports related injuries and accidents. The spinal cord can be partially severed or permanently damaged by severe scarring. The degree of impairment depends on the extent and level of the damaged vertebrae in the spinal cord. Terms used to describe the amount of physical functioning that an individual may retain include, paraplegia, or paralysis of both legs, and quadriplegia, or partial or complete paralysis of all four limbs.

Possible Accommodations

Any mobility impairment could require accommodations in classes or campus life. A mobility issue may cause lengthy absences from class, temporary or permanent difficulty in accessibility, or require special accommodations in the classroom or laboratory. Some people with a mobility impairment may require a lighter class load, schedule periods of rest or make arrangements to make up classes during periods of illness.  Disabilities that are temporary but expected to last five or more weeks may qualify for ADA accommodations.

Mobility impairments may require use of crutches, wheelchair, braces, or motorized vehicles or carts.  Access to classrooms, dormitories and campus buildings, although challenging, is essential for students with mobility impairments.

  • Access – Hope College is 100% accessible.
  • Dormitory – All types of housing on Hope’s campus are available in accessible forms. Room assignments will ensure wheelchair accessibility.
  • Adapted Physical Education classes
  • Transportation - A motorized vehicle is available for those with temporary mobility impairments. Check with the Office of Disability Services if you think you have need of it.
  • Access to adaptive technology (link to resource room), assistive devices and/or a scribe or notetaker
  • Allowance of break periods as needed for rest, taking medication and personal needs
  • Assistance in obtaining text in alternative formats.
  • Preferential seating
  • Provision of extended time for tests and exams (usually time and a half)

What Should the Student Know?

  • All academic and administrative buildings have accessible restrooms, water fountains, ramps, and/or elevators.
  • Dormitory - Room assignments will ensure wheelchair accessibility.
  • Library – Van Wylen Library provides wheelchair accessible computer stations. The library staff will assist in retrieving materials from hard-to reach shelves and displays.
  • Documentation - As with all disabilities covered under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), proper documentation verifying the presence of the condition is necessary before accommodations are approved by Disability Services.
  • Transportation - A Tri-Cart is available for those with temporary mobility impairments. Check with Disability Services if you think you have need of it. Hope also has one van with a lift.