Equal Opportunities Commission


Learn about Physical Disabilities

Learn about Physical Disabilities

Apple's Story

She has ability, in her disability

Apple is a happy girl despite her minor problems in motor abilities. She tumbles and falls sometimes, but always manages to climb up again without complaining. She writes slower than her classmates but is capable of learning all subjects in school. Her mother, Mrs Lau, believing that Apple can improve with proper training, smiles at her every progress, no matter how small. She appreciates the school's efforts in providing special resources for Apple.

To ensure that Apple can go around the school with ease just like everyone else, she is permitted to use the staff lift. She is also provided with washroom facilities specifically designed for her needs. In addition to attending regular classes, Apple learns with a resource teacher several times a week.

Both her resource teacher and her class teacher are patient, caring and willing to work with Apple's therapists to take care of her learning and daily needs. Since she is weak in motor skills, and writes slower than her classmates, she is given more time for examinations and tests, and is allowed to run fewer rounds during physical education class.

Apple blends in well with her primary two classmates. She is able to make good use of her strengths and enjoys the school facilities. She loves Mathematics and Music. Her caring family and supportive school environment has made Apple a happy and well-adjusted child.

Some of her friends with similar motor disabilities are not as fortunate. They are not given as much accommodation and attention as Apple has received, and find it extremely difficult to cope with studying in a regular school.

Physical Disabilities

Physical disabilities stem from a wide range of causes and may be permanent, intermittent or temporary. It can be orthopaedic, musculo-skeletal, or neurological in origin and it affects locomotor functions. Permanent physical disability commonly includes:

* Partial or total paralysis
* Amputation
* Spinal Injury
* Muscular dystrophy
* Multiple sclerosis
* Brain Injury
* Cerebral palsy

From Access to Success

For most students with physical disabilities, the primary hurdle for them to overcome is accessibility. Educational establishments and teachers should be ready to make modifications as may be required. For example:

* Allow enough space for students with mobility impairment to put their crutches, wheelchairs or other walking aids
* Seat the students according to their needs, for example, near the entrance
* Allow enough time or extra time for the students to move from one classroom to another
* Install handrails and other modifications along staircases and in washrooms
* Install ramps at entrances where appropriate
* Arrange help when lifting or moving tasks are required
* Arrange help in advance for emergency situations, such as a fire

Not all of the above need to be done. The key is: provide accommodations according to individual needs. While assistance is a good thing in general, educators should bear in mind that over-protection could hinder integration and undermine a student's dignity.

How can I make my class inclusive for students with physical disabilities?

To assist students with physical disabilities to learn and/or to enjoy school life, some adjustments are necessary. Some students may need certain special adjustments in teaching methods whilst others may require special accommodations in performance assessment. For example:

* Allow regular rest breaks where appropriate
* Encourage students to use both hands in completing their in-class assignments (this will train their weaker hand)
* Allow students to record their notes or hand in their assignments in different formats, for example, a typed assignment instead of a written one
* Arrange different writing tools for students according to their needs
* Allow students to make use of a scribe, computer printout, computerized voice system as alternative communication methods
* Where appropriate, make special arrangements for examinations such as extra time, alternative formats and alternative modes of assessment


DDO and the Code of Practice on Education

The Disability Discrimination Ordinance (DDO), effective since 1996, protects persons with a disability from discrimination, harassment and vilification on the ground of their disability.

The Ordinance makes particular references to the field of education to ensure that persons with a disability have equal opportunities in education. It requires educational establishments NOT to discriminate against students with a disability and to make reasonable accommodations to address their special needs. Such accommodations may include adjustments in teaching, communication, and assessment methods. The DDO also prohibits harassment in educational establishments, including harassment of students with a disability by other students. The law binds the government, educational establishments and their employees, and in the case of harassment and vilification, even the students.

The Code of Practice on Education under the DDO was issued in July 2001 by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to provide guidance on the legal requirements under the DDO in the field of education. It serves to assist educational establishments in developing policies and procedures that prevent and eliminate disability discrimination, and educators in making provisions for students with disabilities. It covers a wide range of practical guiding principles on matters such as admission, providing access, curriculum design and assessment.

The Code is an aid for providers and recipients of educational services.It helps the providers to better understand what constitute non-discriminatory good practices in education, and the recipients to understand their rights and obligations.