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Physical Disabilities

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This section introduces physical disability and some medical conditions that result in physical disabilities, and explores how these may impact a student's academic performance and participation in university life. Here, the main focus is to suggest ways in which you as a staff member can support students with physical disabilities in their role of being a student.

Physical Disability Awareness Leaflet


Physical disabilities result from conditions that affect the physical body. These can include conditions such as brain injuries, spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, and amputations. Severe respiratory and cardiac diseases can also affect mobility. Students with physical disabilities often face major obstacles within the Trinity's physical and social environment.

Difficulties that may be experienced by university students with physical disabilities

  • Students may face difficulties with physical access to buildings and rooms on campus. Students may be unable to access some activities or events with peers.
  • Students may have difficulty or be unable to write, hold, or manipulate objects. Students may, for example encounter difficulties in the use of the library for accessing and reading texts, and finding appropriate desk space.
  • Students who use wheelchairs, crutches, canes, or prostheses may find it difficult moving from place to place, and face obstacles in the physical environment.
  • It may take students more time to complete coursework.
  • Students may tire easily, and find it difficult to maintain energy and stamina throughout the university day.
  • Fatigue and weakness may make it difficult for the students to complete assignments and perform in exams.

Strategies for staff to support students

  • As explained here, students may have disclosed a physical disability to their School. Access the LENS report for details on how you can support the student. Implement and support a student’s reasonable accommodations with efficiency and discretion. Be mindful of how having a physical disability may impact a student’s experience of university life.
  • Be conscious that the student may tire easily and may require rest periods or breaks during lectures, tutorials or class tests.
  • Do not 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.
  • Make lecture notes available in advance if possible. Having lecture notes available online enables students to reduce the amount of handwritten notes they need to take during the lecture. This may enable the student to conserve energy for the rest of the university day. Some students with physical disabilities may have a note-taker.
  • When planning course timetables, try to ensure timetabling gives all students sufficient time to move between teaching venues. Try to avoid significant location changes within a university day e.g. Trinity main campus and Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital.
  • Check the accessibility of all Trinity buildings on Maps by clicking on the building you require. An accessibility link is included in the information window, which links to information on the location of enabled toilets; parking; hearing loops; and entrances. 
  • Students with complex needs or severely reduced mobility may have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEPS). The information for the student’s safe evacuation in the event of an emergency will be contained in their LENS report. Training in the use of the evacuation equipment can be obtained from the Disability Service.