Physical Disabilities

Physical Disabilities - what is it?


485 students or 7% of the student population registered with disabilities in Higher Education in Ireland have a physical disability (AHEAD, 2011).

Impact on Learning

  • Physical access.
  • Difficulty writing, holding or manipulating objects, and carrying out specific tasks.
  • Those who use wheelchairs, callipers, crutches, canes or prostheses often find it difficult moving about especially within the time constraints imposed by timetables.
  • Decreased stamina.
  • Transport difficulties.
  • The student may be absent from college for hospital appointments.
  • Fatigue and weakness leading to problems completing exams/lectures etc.

For more information on the conditions supported click here

Supports available through DSS

  • When the student registers with the Disability Support Service they receive a detailed needs assessment report
  • It is a collaborative document between the student and the disability advisor, parts of which are circulated to their department.
  • This report details the supports that the student needs at higher level
  • The Disability Support Service will also put in place, exam accommodations, assistive technology, and should the student require, act as an advocate on their behalf.


 Reasonable Accommodations

  • You should aim for comfort and accessibility, ensuring all equipment is fit for purpose and comfortable for students to use. Examples include; lowered work stations for wheelchair users, or large handle or weighted lab tools for those with poor grip strength.

  • Ensure that the physical environment is accessible, that it has a comfortable turning circle for wheelchair users and that where possible extra power supplies can be made available for any equipment the student may need to use.

  • Wheelchair users should (insofar as is possible) be accommodated to sit with their peers and not be isolated from the class.

Recommendations for Examination Accommodations

  • Extra time – 10 minutes per hour.
  • Rest periods during the examination.
  • Use of a computer or scribe where handwriting poses difficulties.

How can you help?

  • Please refer to the Guidelines on Inclusive Teaching and Assessment.
  • Allow for the time and fatigue factors that may arise as the student moves between lectures.
  • Be conscious that the student may tire easily and may require rest periods or breaks during lectures, tutorials or class tests.
  • Never push a person’s wheelchair without their permission – offer help if you think it is required but do not impose it.
  • When talking to a person who uses a wheelchair, sit down (if possible) so that you are both on the same level.
  • People who walk using sticks or crutches may appreciate help with carrying belongings or opening doors
  • Try to keep walkways, corridors and aisles free from obstructions.
  • When walking with a person who uses crutches or a wheelchair adjust your pace to match theirs.

Disability Support Service

Seirbhís Tacaíochta do Dhaoine faoi Mhíchumas

South Lodge, UCC, College Road, Cork