Physical & Sensory Impairment

Physical & Sensory Impairment

6798 views | Amna | 24-05-2022

Physical and Sensory impairment means having challenged or diminished ability of one's body or the five senses. The physical impairment may be a loss of function or ability of the body parts or organs. Sensory impairment is the inability of the body to receive information from any of the five senses or to process the collected information.  

In 2010, the UK government implemented a law for disabled people to help them live with dignity and independence. They were to live free from discrimination, and with equal access to education which is critical for their definitive careers. 

The Equality Act 2010 defines a person as disabled if they have "a physical or mental impairment resulting in substantial and long-term adverse effects on their ability to carry out normal activities of daily life."

Since the implementation of this law on April 5, 2011, all public authorities have had a mandated responsibility to promote equality

This law indicates that consideration is necessary to remove discriminatory practices, intimidation, and marginalisation regarding disability in environments such as schools, universities, and workplaces, to name a few.

Such steps to promote equality have helped a lot of people with handicaps to move forward in their lives and strive to create careers through education and related training. 

A person may need a special environment for their training or education. Providing them with a safe environment and helpful teachers and trainers helps make it possible to learn and flourish.

Before we discuss how a trainer can make a difference in the life of an adult trainee, let's discuss and understand the impairments first.

A sensory handicap impairs one or more senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, or spatial awareness. Sight and hearing loss are two of the most common sensory disabilities.

What is Sensory Impairment?

Sensory impairment is a disability that causes the five senses (e.g., sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste) to stop or reduce working. It is a neurological disability that affects the human mind to process or act upon the information provided through the senses. The senses that help us interact in this world become a liability instead of an asset.

Our sight and hearing provide us with most information regarding our surroundings, losing the sense or its reduced efficiency can impact how a person gathers information and interacts with their environment.

What is Physical Impairment?

As the name suggests, physical impairment is when the body or some parts do not function according to the required capacity. Physical impairment in studies or education doesn't affect as drastically as sensory impairment, but it limits the body's functions or limits the person's movement. This may be addressed by the institution by ensuring resources, facilities and equipment, buildings and classrooms as accessible to students with physical disabilities.

Physical impairments should be considered and addressed by the trainer or teacher. And the best way to offer help or support is by asking the student how the teacher can accommodate them or if they need any accommodation, to begin with.

Types of Sensory & Physical Impairments

Physical and medical difficulties are medical issues or ailments that need treatments and procedures. The sensory challenges generally are a loss of either hearing or vision or both in rare cases. Whichever the issue, it may be severe enough that the student may not be able to continue mainstream learning and qualify for special education services or programmes.

Now we will understand the physical and sensory impairment students face through some examples :

The types of Sensory Impairments are:

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD):

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disability; 3/4th of the ASD impaired have difficulty in sensory processing. ASD influences the way students engage with their environment, including with other people, like their teacher or fellow students. 

Autism has a wide variety of symptoms, including challenges with social communication and interaction, limited and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensory sensitivity to noise, light, and touch. Autism is a disability that presents differently and diversely in different people; therefore, the term "spectrum" refers to the whole range of issues that somebody with autism may face.

Sight Impairment:

Sight impairment is a sensory disability such as lack of sight, i.e., being blind or having a challenging vision. The student will face difficulty using sight to acquire information and knowledge. 

Some people who are not blind sometimes face challenging vision. A common disorder for sight is a refractive error. The eye cannot focus clearly on what it sees in front of it. Some students may have a narrow field of view, known as tunnel vision, or be extremely sensitive to light in general.

Hearing Impairment:

Hearing loss, often known as deafness, is the inability to hear; this can be a partial disability or a total disability. The term "deaf" may describe someone who has very little or no hearing. 

Damages to any external, middle, or inner ear component may cause hearing impairment, and it can range from slight to profound.

Hearing loss can occur due to various causes, including child sickness, childbirth complications, and medication reactions. Then some accidents can cause defects or physical damage to the related organs.

Sensory Processing Disorder:

Sensory processing disorder is when an individual has difficulty receiving and responding to sensory information. SPD could indicate that they misread everyday sensory data like touch, sound, and movement.

A person with a sensory processing disorder can sense the information, but their brain processes and evaluates it unexpectedly. It can impact just one sensation or all of them.

Smell Impairment

Smell disorders, also known as olfactory impairment, can have a negative impact on a person's life quality. Every year, over 200,000 people visit a doctor for problems with their senses of smell and taste. Both of these chemical senses are intimately connected. In fact, some people who believe they have lost their sense of smell are actually suffering from a taste disorder.

A student might not smell a gas leak or any material that is hazardous and may fall victim to a dangerous situation. Aids, either visual or auditory, should be provided in the class to keep the learning safe. A teacher or trainer can ensure safety by updating the class according to each student’s needs.

Taste Impairment

Taste loss can be harmful to one's health, resulting in poor diet choices, suppressed appetite, and malnutrition. Furthermore, the loss of smell makes people more susceptible to eating rotten food because their ability to distinguish between good and bad food has declined. The elderly are more prone to losing their sense of taste than any other age group.

This may lead to malnourishment and gastric issues resulting in a lack of energy or ability to concentrate for the affected learners. Therefore the teacher or trainer needs awareness of these impairments to accommodate their teaching and learning strategies and ensure the learner does not face any disadvantage.

The types of Physical Impairments are:

Birth Defects:

A child might suffer injury, excess or lack of something, or a genetic disorder before being born or even during birth. Their learning abilities vary according to the issue they suffer, but teachers and trainers can provide learning to such individuals with care and proper training. Cerebral Palsy and Spina Bifida are some of the defects babies may be born with. Their teachers are equipped to provide specialised education and training with the help of appropriate equipment.


Immobility means a lack of movement, which may be a restriction to an organ or the whole body. There can be various reasons for such impairments to occur, from accidents to diseases. 

Generally, students have high-tech hardware to overcome their challenges, and still asking for their requirements can help teachers plan their education and training.


Seizures can occur without warning anywhere due to epilepsy or some neurological disorder. It's a possibility that seizures can disable a person and causes damage to the brain and stress and weakness in the body. 

Although they can't be controlled but can be managed, and a properly trained person can help such a person overcome this disability. With proper treatment and medication,  it can be managed and prevented. 


A disease can be a physical impairment when it stops a person from functioning normally and effectively for an extended period. Not all diseases come in this category, only those affecting a person's day-to-day activities and learning capabilities.

Teaching Strategies  

Teaching a person with a physical and sensory impairment is similar to teaching anyone; they just need a few special considerations.

When in a classroom, a teacher must consider the requirements of each student. Making sure equality in a diverse class is implemented and respected. 

Generally, students with physical or sensory impairments have equipment and aids to help them access the provided education. It is the teacher's responsibility to ensure successful learning.

The world of technology has provided assistance and support to physically disabled, sensory impaired, or developmentally challenged students. A dedicated and properly equipped trainer can help their students and empower them to fulfill their dreams.

Covert Assistance

A kind gesture goes a long way in making anyone comfortable. Without highlighting the assistance, the impaired students should be provided with help to complete the task at hand.

Respect Boundaries

Even if you mean to help, overstepping boundaries with an impaired student can damage the teacher-student bonding. It is essential to ask before helping or providing assistance and respect their established boundaries. This means those boundaries that students want to be set but do not know how to implement. This becomes the teacher's job to understand and implement such boundaries.

Set Goals 

A student needs to have goals set up and determine the path to achieve them. This is important for every student in the class but becomes vital for people with challenges. 

The teacher can help both physically and sensory impaired students by breaking a significant outcome into smaller goals. Having a series of smaller victories is much more important for them and beneficial for boosting their confidence.

Lesson Setup

Many sensory-impaired students need to get review of the whole lesson regularly. It is essential to demonstrate, teach, and practice each skill required to achieve the overall goal in every lesson creation. Review and reinforcement depend on the teacher and the student's pace.

Celebrate Wins

No matter how small the win, celebrate it as the students need to be motivated as much as possible.

ELN Courses

Physical and sensory impairment in students needs different considerations in their learning experiences, but having a positive and accommodating environment is important. A professional trainer deals with adults. They are expected to deal with all the students equally and create a bond of respect with each student individually. 

Not everyone is equipped to handle impaired individuals; that is where continuous professional development comes in.

There are several Train the trainer courses at ELN The e-Learning Network, is for teaching students of all ages with special needs. We equip the trainers with the required tools to help them spread their knowledge. 

Our students come from all backgrounds, and we want to provide good quality education to our students. 

Our Dealing with SENs CPD course is planned for trainers who teach students, kids, or adults with special needs, and it demonstrates the vital role a teacher needs to play. 

Autism is a developmental challenge, and these students are passionate about learning; with our Autism Spectrum CPD, a trainer can equip themselves to reach out to their students reasonably.

We believe that empowered teachers can empower their students. Our CPD course in Teaching students with sensory and physical impairments is an excellent opportunity for adult trainers for physical and sensory impaired students.


For a student suffering from a physical impairment or a sensory impairment, it becomes the teacher's job in school or trainers for adults to make sure the knowledge is imparted to the student responsibly and effectively. This way, we can ensure that a disability does not hinder people from prospering despite their physical or sensory impairments.

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