Physical Disability

Physical Disability

A physical disability is one that affects the person’s mobility and/or dexterity.

Examples of physical disability include:

  • amputation
  • arthritis
  • cerebral palsy
  • upper limbs
  • multiple-sclerosis
  • muscular dystrophy
  • acquired spinal injury (paraplegia or quadriplegia)
  • post-polio syndrome
  • spina bifida

There are many different kinds of disability and a wide variety of situations which people experience.

Each person will have different causes, symptoms and management strategies making it difficult to generalise physical disabilities.

A physical disability may have existed since birth or it could be the result of an accident, illness, infection, disease, degeneration, medical condition or the result of congenital factors.

A person with a physical disability may require some assistance or the use of some sort of equipment to aid with mobility.


  • People with mobility impairment rely on effective signage that is up to date and consistent in both style and placement.
  • Provide clear and frequent signage to direct people around the building and to decrease the need for assistance.
  • For people who use a wheelchair it is like a part of the person’s body; do not lean or hang on to the chair.
  • Offer assistance if it appears necessary, but do not assume a person with a disability will require or accept it.
  • Make sure that there is a clear pathway for a person in a wheelchair and do not leave articles such as chairs or boxes in areas that may block access.

Communication Strategies

  • When communicating with a person with a physical disability it is important to acknowledge that each person is an individual and should be approached as such.
  • Meet in a setting that is comfortable and does not cause anxiety or distraction.
  • Ask the person about the most appropriate way of communicating with them.
  • Do not assume that people with a physical disability cannot comprehend because of physical appearance.
  • Speak directly to the person and not with someone who maybe assisting them.
  • DON’T SHOUT. Speak in a tone appropriate to the setting.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Use an appropriate volume and tone in your voice.
  • Where possible, position yourself at the same level as the person.
  • Make sure the person has understood you. If necessary write the information down.
  • Check with the person about use of adaptive technology to aid with communication.