Assistive Technology for Mobility Impairments

Instructor: Jocelyn Cherry

Jocelyn has taught Special Education for over two decades and has three post secondary degrees all in the field of Education.

Mobility impairments can affect one's balance, coordination, and movement of extremities. With a plethora of assistive technology devices available, this lesson will explore the options to increase independence.

Common Myth

Have you heard others say that if a person does not have a certain ability, others senses are heightened to compensate for the loss? For example, a person with a visual impairment is said to have extraordinary hearing. Unfortunately this is a myth. A person with a visual impairment automatically learns how to make use of sensations around them. They concentrate and are more attentive to smaller details. When a person is exhibiting a mobility impairment, other senses or abilities are not strengthened. They remain the same. A mobility impairment can range from lower body impairments, which may require a person to use a cane, walker, or wheelchair, to upper body impairments that may include limited or no use of the upper extremities and hands. As a way of adapting to their environment, they must learn how to compensate. One way to compensate is to use assistive technology devices. This lesson will take a closer look at both mobility impairments and assistive technology examples.

Mobility Impairments

Although the majority of people with a mobility impairment are over the age of 65, a person can have limitations at any age. A mobility impairment can be the result of a sickness or accident (for example Spina Bifida or Cerebral Palsy) or a result of aging. Mobility impairments can be permanent or temporary. A broken bone or surgery can impact a person's ability to walk independently and now this person has a mobility impairment. Mobility skills at any age are crucial for successful environmental adjustment, student performance, and - most importantly - independence. To improve mobility skills in the classroom, students with mobility impairments can use assistive technology.

Assistive Technology

Assistive technology is any item, piece of equipment or system used to improve a person's functional capabilities. Assistive technology can be store-bought, handmade, or something modified. This includes hardware, software, and any stand-alone devices such as smartphones or tablets. It could be a pencil grip or raised graph paper. The suggestions are endless.

Almost any tool can be considered an assistive technology device. The only exclusion to an item being considered an assistive technology device is an item that has been surgically implanted. Assistive technology promotes greater independence by enabling the user to perform tasks they formerly could not. Let's look at how assistive technology can be used in the classroom to promote independence and academic success.

Assistive Technology in the Classroom

The main focus for students with mobility impairments is to provide the needed accommodations in the academic environment. Classroom accommodations vary depending on the individual and their particular needs. Because the majority of students with mobility impairments do not experience cognitive disabilities as well, an educator should collaborate with the student to their curricular and physical needs.

An educator might be required to meet the following accommodations:

  • Vary seating arrangements to develop posture
  • Provide instruction that may be focused on development of gross and fine motor skills
  • Ensure assistive devices or technology
  • Be aware of the student's medical condition and its affect on the student

Let's now take a look at some assistive technology examples in the classroom.

Examples

Because there are varying levels of mobility impairments, a number of different assistive technologies might be used. The assistive technologies used need to address the needs of the student so that they are able to access the educational curriculum, as it would be with any other student with a disability. Technologies may include:

Tactile Map

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