Making Extra-Curricular Activities Inclusive

Persons with disabilities

It is important to recognize that students with disabilities studying on college and university campuses have a variety of disabilities. When planning events and activities, programmers should consider many accessibility and accommodations issues. Remember a person with a disability is not defined by their condition; each person is a unique individual. But a good place to start is an understanding of types of disabilities and their impact.

A disability is a functional limitation or restriction of an individual's ability to perform an activity. But that does not mean that a person with a disability cannot participate equally. Appropriate accommodations and supports can ensure inclusion of all post-secondary students in campus life. It is important to remember that the word "disabled" is an adjective, not a noun. People are not conditions. It is therefore preferable not to use the term "the disabled"; but rather “persons with disabilities."

Types of Disabilities

Physical disabilities

A physical disability is one that affects a person's mobility or dexterity. A person with a physical disability may need to use some sort of equipment for assistance with mobility. It also includes people who have lost limbs or who, because of the shape of their body, require slight adaptations to be made to enable them to participate fully in society.

Paraplegia and Quadriplegia are what many people first identify with a physical disability. Paraplegia results from injury to the spinal cord, occurring below the neck, while quadriplegia refers to damage to the spinal cord in the neck. Varying degrees of loss of limb and other mobility may result from either condition. Other forms of physical disability, such as polio (an acquired disease), cerebral palsy (damage to brain tissue during fetal stages) and some genetic conditions can result in loss of mobility.

Types of Physical Disabilities:
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Cerebral palsy
Absent limb/reduced limb function

Intellectual or Learning Disabilities

People with an intellectual, learning, or cognitive disability have a reduced capacity to learn tasks or process information. A learning disability may make it difficult for a person to take in information and communicate what they know. Learning difficulties can cause difficulties in reading, writing, or mathematics. Learning disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder together affect between 3% and 10% of the population. As students, people with these disabilities are often intelligent, creative, and productive.

Psychiatric disabilities

A psychiatric disability (or mental illness) can develop at any age and is often not apparent to other people. Psychiatric disabilities are often the most misunderstood disabilities in the community, and peoples' attitudes may be based on prejudice and myth (e.g. schizophrenics are potentially violent).

Mental illnesses can include stress-related conditions, major depression, bipolar disorder (formally called manic-depressive illness), anxiety, and schizophrenia. Depression is the most common non-psychotic mental illness (psychosis being a disorder which features the loss of contact with reality).

Visual impairments

Only 5% of 'blind' people can't see anything. Visual impairments can be caused by a multitude of factors, including disease, accidents, and congenital illnesses. There is a difference between the needs of visually impaired individuals and blind people.

Hearing impairments

Deafness and hearing loss can be caused by a wide range of factors, including physical damage, disease during pregnancy, or exposure to very loud noises. There is a distinction between people who are deaf and those who have a hearing impairment. Those hearing up to three years of age (when language begins to develop) often have comparatively good speech and lip-reading ability.

Neurological disabilities

A neurological disability is associated with damage to the nervous system that results in the loss of some physical or mental functions. A neurological disability may affect a person's capacity to move or manipulate things or the way they act or express their feelings. The way they think and process information may also be significantly influenced. The brain and the spine are the areas of the body most closely associated with neurology. Heart attacks, serious infections, and lack of oxygen to the brain may also result in a neurological disability.