Improving the Physical Accessibility of a Classroom

A student with a physical disability can be impacted by the classroom environment in many different ways and no two students may be affected the same way.  One student may need a high desktop or table, and the next student need the opportunity to stand and stretch his or her back.  The document that follows will offer some suggestion to improve accessibility of your classroom.  It will also describe obstacles a student with a physical disability may encounter trying to attend and participate in your class.  Many of the strategies below are approached by using universal design principles.  The strategies not only help to create a more accessible environment, but may contribute to less accommodation request by students.


Barriers and Solutions to Improve Classroom Accessibility
Potential Issues Strategies

Students in wheelchair could potentially encounter problems making it to your class on time. Crowded elevators, obstructed paths of travel, and fatigue could prevent a student from arriving on time.

Assist student with getting any missed information or making up any quizzes they may have missed.  If you have already provide notes online or have assigned that responsibility to a student or students, please refer student to those options.

Students with physical impairments impacting the upper body could potentially need assistance taking notes.

Post a copy of your lecture notes or PowerPoints to Canvas, so the student can review and have available for the lecture.

Students with physical impairments impacting the upper body could potentially have difficulty holding and turning pages in a book or handout.

Make available in Canvas or other means any handouts or powerpoints in electronic format so students can use their technologies to access the information. 

Students with physical impairments impacting the upper body could potentially need assistance recording answers with an iClicker.

Depending on the degree of limitations, a software app may be an equitable option for the student to use.  You can contact

Some students do not have the ability to raise their hands to ask or answer questions.

During the accommodations meeting with student, discuss ways to acknowledge that they would like to be call upon.

Students with limited dexterity and upper body strength may not be able to manipulate objects in labs and other courses that require hands on participation.

Often times having a fellow student work as a lab partner is the easiest way to assist the student.  Graduate Teaching Assistant can also be a valuable resource.

Physical impairments of the upper body can limit a student’s ability to write or type.

Provide students with an outline of the lecture that can be filled in or expanded. Allow the student to use technology such as a laptop, Livescribe Pen, or digital recorder to assist with note taking. Ask for volunteers or assign a group of students to take and share their class notes.  Notes could be then post to Canvas for the entire class to view.