Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Assistive Technology: Having a Wheelchair Bound Student in the Classroom

In my school experience - on the elementary, high school and college levels- I have witnessed fellow students use wheelchairs. The types of wheelchairs varied from being powered electronically to the ol' fashioned use of manpower. Either way, this technology can be restrictive in terms of its ability to maneuver and pass through places.

I believe the layout of a classroom to be very important. The way students can move from area to area and access certain material is key to successful classroom management. If I had a student in my classroom who used a wheelchair as their form of assistive technology it would greatly affect the layout of my classroom. I would ensure all areas were maneuverable for their wheelchair. Materials that students would need to access on a day-to-day basis would be at a level reachable by the student in a wheelchair. I would be conscious of my use and placement of rugs in the room, so as to not hinder their ability to move about. I would also accomodate them in other ways - for instance, if I had a cozy reading spot in the classroom, I would work with the student to find out what they would like to have it the reading spot - perhaps a special pillow or a lap desk etc.

In terms of my teaching strategy, as long as the student felt comfortable I would allow a class discussion on their particular disability and why they use a wheelchair in an attempt to make the rest of the students comfortable and accepting. In reading, I would incorporate stories about differently abled people (I would do this whether or not I had a student in my classroom who was differently abled, however, I would probably pay even closer attention to my chioces). Finally, when it came time to use manipulatives or do science labs I would ensure that it is at a level which all students are able to observe.


  1. Katie,

    Excellent consideration of space and height that can be reached by everyone in the classroom. Certain activities that include movement will need to be adapted as well.

  2. Well said. I am often thinking of how I too would have to modify my lessons if I had a student with special needs, such as a wheelchair. The extra thought on what topics I would present would have to be a deciding factor in what cirriculum I use. The last thing we would want is to make a student uncomfortable or feeling left out. Good posting.

  3. I think that you mentioned a good strategy and that was classroom layout. I mentioned this as well, if I had a visual impaired student I would need to make sure that my arrangement was arranged so that they felt comfortable. I also mentioned safety, as well as if I had labels up in the classroom we would have to make sure this person could read them (whether braille or different coloring for them). I think sometimes we focus so much on the teaching strategy that we might bypass these types of strategies. Thanks for sharing this!