Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism and Motor / Manual Dexterity Difficulties
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Students with motor and / or manual dexterity difficulties may tire easily or be susceptible to changes in temperature. Some students will experience considerable pain, which can itself be disabling and which may become worse when they are fatigued. Pain may be controlled through medication which can have unpleasant side effects.
Most conditions are stable but a few (for example, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis) are degenerative or may be variable over time, with good and bad periods. Some conditions, such as upper limb disorders (including repetitive strain injury/RSI) may be cured if caught at an early stage, but otherwise become chronic conditions. Some students may have manual dexterity difficulties which affect their ability to write or undertake other fine motor skills but do not affect other day-to-day activities.
In nearly all these conditions, the basic ability to learn is unaffected by the difficulties. However, students who have sustained brain damage of some description may have specific learning difficulties, including perceptual, cognitive or memory problems of various kinds.
Implications for studying
The physical environment forms the greatest barrier for people with mobility and motor difficulties. For those with manual dexterity difficulties the problems are usually related to the day-to-day mechanics of studying.
Strategies and equipment
- Some students need help with day-to-day studying. For example they may need someone to take notes, assist with experiments, carry or open books or physically write assignments on their behalf. If a notetaker is used frequently he or she should be trained to ensure that his or her notes are taken in a way that is useful to the reader.
- Some students may require support with mobility and everyday personal tasks such as using the toilet, washing or eating. Although other students may be able to help occasionally, a student who needs frequent or regular help will need a personal assistant. The same person, either a volunteer (for example a CSV) or a paid assistant may provide personal and study support. In these cases the costs can be divided between social services departments which have an overall responsibility to pay for personal assistance, and the DSAs which cover the study aspects of support.
- It is important that personal assistants, including those giving occasional help, receive appropriate training, for example in how to lift safely. It may also be necessary to ensure there are back-up arrangements in case an assistant is unwell. Support arrangements of this kind need to be kept under review to ensure they remain satisfactory for student and assistant.
- Those who experience excessive fatigue or pain, such as some students with medical conditions, may need places to rest, more flexible deadlines, or to pay for cabs between their living accommodation and place of study.
- For people who have limited use, or no use, of their hands or arms, there is a range of both specialist and more general equipment which may be helpful. Tape recorders can be useful to back-up notetaking. Adapted keyboards or software may be essential for people who cannot write as well or as quickly as others. Keyboards can be tailor-made to suit individual's needs, for example enlarged, shaped differently, reduced to a 12 button twiddler or replaced altogether with a pointer or switch device operated by any part of the body that moves.
- Software is available that will predict what a student is writing from the first few letters of the word and this is particularly useful for those whose writing speed is slow. Voice recognition software is now becoming more sophisticated and is useful to some students. Students are likely to have some idea about what system suits them, but technological change happens so fast that extra advice may be necessary.
- For people with physical and motor disabilities the studying environment in college is often not ideal. Study areas may be cramped or the wrong temperature and accessible toilets may be a long way away. For this reason it can make sense to have a computer and modem at home where the environment may be better suited to individual needs.
- Students who are wheelchair users, or who have back conditions, may need specially designed chairs or desks. An occupational therapist, or an ACCESS Centre should be able to help with an assessment for furniture.
- Many students sort out their needs at the beginning of a course and stick to them. Others, particularly those with hydrocephalus, may require assistance and regular support in addressing their needs. Some students with degenerative or variable conditions such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, AIDS or ME will have changing needs and may need to alter or increase their support package if the DSAs maxima have not been exceeded.
- Students with neurological conditions may have perceptual problems. However, unless their condition is recent, they may have developed strategies to cope. Those with severe problems will have great difficulty in learning their way around a complicated campus. They may be fearful of moving along on uneven surfaces and have problems with steps. They can be supported by having a guide to accompany them in the early days in their new environment.
- Some students may need to be given flexible deadlines, or allowed to take examinations in a separate room so that they can dictate to an amanuensis.